Firms can benefit immensely from participating in digital platform ecosystems - specifically, from the shared technological assets and market opportunities offered by the platform owner. Yet, while aligning with the platform ecosystem rules, each member must decide whether to specialize in a given platform ecosystem or across multiple platform ecosystems to capture these benefits. We examine two common patterns through which platform ecosystem members (i.e., complementors) specialize within and across platform ecosystems, and the relative impact on their market performance. We look at the high relative standing of the complementary product as a reflection of complementors' specialization in the given product category or platform ecosystem. We then theorize that having products with high relative standing in a single product category and a single platform ecosystem, together, diminishes complementors’ market performance over time. Similarly, high relative standing in multiple platform ecosystems and multiple product categories, at the same time, adversely impacts the market performance. We find supportive evidence for our hypotheses, in a panel dataset of mobile app developers. This paper contributes to the burgeoning stream of research that investigates the trade-offs faced by complementors, suggesting that complementor strategies are more complex than simply trying to maximize market reach.
Bibliographical notePublished online: 5 April 2020
- Platform ecosystem
- Digital platform
- Mobile app developer