The Importance of Classification to Business Model Research

Susan C. Lambert


classification, business model, taxonomy, typology, theory building


Purpose: To bring to the fore the scientific significance of classification and its role in business model theory building. To propose a method by which existing classifications of business models can be analyzed and new ones developed.

Design/Methodology/Approach: A review of the scholarly literature relevant to classifications of business models is presented along with a brief overview of classification theory applicable to business model research. Existing business model classifications are evaluated in terms of their propensity to contribute to theory building and a method for designing classifications schemes is proposed.

Findings: Little attention has been paid to the rationale underlying the design of business model classifications and often there is no explicit consideration of the suitability of the classification for its intended purpose. Each classification contributes to the understanding of business models in practice but there is a dearth of taxonomical research that can facilitate progression of business model research towards theorizing.

Originality/Value: This paper addresses the research element of classification that is largely overlooked yet is crucial for business model theory building. The nature of business model classifications is examined in the light of classification philosophies and a structured method of classification design is proposed. A case is made for the development of a general classification of business models that can facilitate the progression of business model research towards theory building.