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The digitalization of retailing: an exploratory framework

Johan Hagberg (Department of Business Administration, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg,Sweden)
Malin Sundstrom (Swedish Institute for Innovative Retailing , University of Boras, Boras, Sweden)
Niklas Egels-Zandén (Department of Business Administration, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden)

International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management

ISSN: 0959-0552

Article publication date: 11 July 2016




Digitalization denotes an on-going transformation of great importance for the retail sector. The purpose of this paper is to analyse the phenomenon of the digitalization of retailing by developing a conceptual framework that can be used to further delineate current transformations of the retailer-consumer interface.


This paper develops a framework for digitalization in the retail-consumer interface that consists of four elements: exchanges, actors, offerings, and settings. Drawing on the previous literature, it describes and exemplifies how digitalization transforms each of these elements and identifies implications and proposals for future research.


Digitalization transforms the following: retailing exchanges (in a number of ways and in various facets of exchange, including communications, transactions, and distribution); the nature of retail offerings (blurred distinctions between products and services, what constitutes the actual offering and how it is priced); retail settings (i.e. where and when retailing takes place); and the actors who participate in retailing (i.e. retailers and consumers, among other parties).

Research limitations/implications

The framework developed can be used to further delineate current transformations of retailing due to digitalization. The current transformation has created challenges for research, as it demands sensitivity to development over time and insists that categories that have been taken for granted are becoming increasingly blurred due to greater hybridity.


This paper addresses a significant and on-going transformation in retailing and develops a framework that can both guide future research and aid retail practitioners in analysing retailing’s current transformation due to digitalization.



This research was supported by The Swedish Retail and Wholesale Council and The Swedish Research Council. Previous versions of the paper were presented at the Nordic Retail and Wholesale Conference in Stockholm in November 2014 and the EAERCD Conference in Rennes in July 2015.


Hagberg, J., Sundstrom, M. and Egels-Zandén, N. (2016), "The digitalization of retailing: an exploratory framework", International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, Vol. 44 No. 7, pp. 694-712.



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