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Paper info: What does digitalization mean for selling: activity theory perspective on the buying process

Title


What does digitalization mean for selling: activity theory perspective on the buying process

Authors


Anna Abramova

Place of Publication


The paper was published at the 35th IMP-conference in Paris, France in 2019.

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Abstract


Digitalization has had a great impact on buying and sales processes by making a customer more empowered and independent of direct contact with a seller. This study offers an understanding of what aspects of a buying activity have actually been affected by digitalization and what this means for a seller organization. The study applies activity theory, and looks at the buying activity from different hierarchical levels of analysis (activity, actions and operations) to spot which levels have been impacted by digitalization. Application of activity theory suggests that with increased digitalization, the motives and goals of the buyer still stay the same and that it is the operational layer of buying that is mainly affected by digitalization. This suggests that core information needs of a customer in the buying process have remained unchanged and that digitalization just suggests a new way to address the same information needs. What digitalization impacts is the redistribution of sales activities between different mediators: the sales person and digital content. This means that success of a sales organization still lies in a profound understanding of customer information needs in the buying process, which have not been addressed systematically in existing literature. Based on semi-structured interviews with key informants representing different roles in buying teams in B2B context, the study improves our understanding of customer information needs in the buying process and understanding of ways in which these needs can be addressed with digital content.