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Defining online to offline (O2O): a systematic approach to defining an emerging business model

Philip Tin Yun Lee (The University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong) (The Hang Seng University of Hong Kong, Sha Tin, Hong Kong)
Feiyu E (The University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong) (Southern University of Science and Technology, Shenzhen, China)
Michael Chau (The University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong)

Internet Research

ISSN: 1066-2243

Article publication date: 19 July 2022

Issue publication date: 7 September 2022




A new business model online to offline (O2O) has emerged in recent years. Similar to many new models at an early stage, O2O has inconsistent definitions which not only inhibit its adoption but also poorly differentiate O2O from other existing business models. To resolve the two issues, the authors propose an approach of definition development.


To show the usefulness of the approach, the authors demonstrate the differences among O2O and other business models with the use of the distinctive definition and thereby evaluate adoption of O2O from a practical perspective and identify research directions from a theoretical perspective based on the differences.


The authors' proposed approach of definition development integrates the work of Tatarkiewicz (1980) and Nickerson et al. (2013). The approach generates a distinctive definition of O2O with important analytical dimensions which help decision-making of adoption of O2O.


The paper aims to make several contributions. First, on theoretical contribution, the authors confine the scope of O2O studies and facilitate accumulation of more coherent knowledge of O2O. The authors help O2O evolve from a “buzz word” of successful stories in real businesses to a more serious concept from an academic perspective. Second, from a practical perspective, the authors' definition provides business executives with critical evaluative dimensions for gauging the adoption of O2O. Lastly, from a methodological perspective, the proposed approach can be used in future to define an emerging concept in real life businesses.



Lee, P.T.Y., E, F. and Chau, M. (2022), "Defining online to offline (O2O): a systematic approach to defining an emerging business model", Internet Research, Vol. 32 No. 5, pp. 1453-1495.



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