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Created on 14.06.2021

Four digital business models – with tips for SMEs

Digitization is giving new business models a boost. We present four that are particularly interesting for SMEs.

How can SMEs harness digitization to create new opportunities for revenue and value creation? As food for thought, we take a look at four digital business models that have taken root. The term digital by the way doesn’t necessarily mean that these business models didn’t exist before digitization. However, digitization is giving them a boost.

Digital business models


Whether for private end customers or business customers, electronic retailing of physical goods is probably the most widespread digital business model. And it’s one that’s evolving quickly. New technological capabilities make it possible to optimize the customer experience of online shopping. Examples include voicebots, which make shopping easier with a voice-based product search, or artificial intelligence, which provides customers with personal recommendations within a fraction of a second. Great progress has also been made in e-commerce with regard to payment: thanks to modern e-payment solutions, the integration of payment methods is now easy and convenient.

SME tip

Take a look at big providers – whether competitors or companies outside the industry – to see how they are developing their e-commerce operations. You will very probably be able to borrow and adapt one or two of their ideas.


Platforms are virtual marketplaces used to bring together various providers and potential customers. Well-known examples of companies that use platforms as a digital business model include giants such as Amazon, Alibaba The link will open in a new window or And the exciting thing is: while Amazon for example may have started out back then as a digital bookshop in Jeff Bezos’ garage, it has long since ceased to offer just books. The platform instead offers a comprehensive range of products and services for every aspect of life, from food or software right through to insurance. But there are also platforms for smaller markets and for a focused range of services, such as transport, moving, cleaning and tradespeople services, the sale of vintage furniture or the creation of websites by agencies through providers in Switzerland for customers from Switzerland.

SME tip

You don’t necessarily have to build a platform business yourself. But cast your eye over the possibilities: maybe there’s a platform in your sector that opens up new sales opportunities for your SME.


Whether for online magazines, software, entertainment, vegetables or socks: offering subscriptions is a well-known and established business model. Companies benefit from predictable revenues, but also have to ensure that their customers renew their subscriptions. This form of customer retention only works in the long term if customers are offered new added value on a regular basis, by continuously improving, supplementing or replacing products. The possibilities available today for analysing and evaluating data with a view to exploiting the potential for optimization are conducive to the subscription business model.

SME tip

Examine your products or services to see whether some or all of them could be offered as a subscription.


Use instead of ownership: this is a trend based on a cultural change among consumers that can be exploited by companies using the rental business model. Instead of the products being sold, they are rented out for a specific period of time and for a fee. With cars, this has been around for a long time in the form of car sharing. As a rule, the added value is generated by the service required to rent out the products (operating a platform, cleaning the equipment, possibly providing a delivery service, etc.).

SME tip

From garden tools to copiers, from office furniture to forklifts: the rental business model can be applied to very different product categories. It may be worth your while to take a close look at your product range. 

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