Degree Programs | Digital Strategy course

ESMT Berlin

The Digital Strategy course is for businesses that choose to put their online appearance at the heart of their service offerings. Participants learn the fundamental strategies of digital platforms—how to use the internet to connect users and offer additional benefits—as well as how to navigate the transition problems that arise when digital platforms become an important distribution channel.

Study and coursework are informed by current academic literature and by insights gained through consulting project work with social networks, digital market places, as well as search, real estate, VoD, news, and other digital platforms.

Course Content

The Digital Strategy course is organized around five core themes.

1. Defining the digital platform

Digital platforms are used for almost everything: finding partners and homes, buying goods and services, interacting with friends, as well as listening to, watching, and reading “stuff.” But what makes Google, Facebook, Ebay, Immoscout, Parship, and Zalando alike, and what differentiates them? In small groups, students will identify the main characteristics of digital platforms and learn key analytical approaches to issues such as network effects and multi-homing in two (or multi)-sided markets, cost characteristics, and pricing strategies.

2. Network investment and growth

A core principle of digital platforms is that their benefits increase (and costs decrease) in the number of users on one or both sides of the platform. This puts growth strategies at the heart of platform success. After providing an overview of the various high-level strategies employed by successful and less successful digital platforms, real estate platforms are used to show the variety of strategic dimensions required for growth: e.g., marketing, pricing, cooperation, innovation, service, and tools.

3. Recouping investment with pricing and data

While the benefits of market leadership are significant and, hence, support aggressive growth strategies, firms seek to recoup their investment through charging users on one or more sides of the market. To do so, firms need to answer several strategic questions: when to introduce pricing, for which users (e.g., advertisers, listeners, readers), at what level, and with which structure? What, too, are the benefits and risks of access to big data derived from users? Drawing lessons from social networks and online music platforms, students will gain an analysis of how firms choose different strategies of vertical integration and cooperation on the complex data market.

4. From brick-and-mortar to digital

Traditional consumer goods manufacturers and service providers are challenged by whether and how to work with digital platforms in their sectors. Similarly, digital platforms are using their market power to determine the terms and conditions of suppliers seeking access. Why did many successful brick-and-mortar suppliers fail to successfully transition into the digital world? Using examples from the hospitality and sportswear sectors, students will identify concepts of intra- and inter-brand competition and learn the pros and cons of classic online distribution strategies.

5. Regulatory responses and other market challenges

Political initiatives in France, Germany, and by the European Commission, for example, are asking digital platforms and data protection agencies to critically watch the use of (big) data. Simultaneously, start-ups are disrupting markets by offering suitable alternatives to established brands. Students will learn to identify market risks and defensive strategies for countering business threats.

Additional Topics

In addition to these core themes, the course may also address the following topics on digital platforms, their strategies, and business performance.

Imitation and innovation in service offerings

Avoiding business failure

Regulatory policy responses and effects

Big data and privacy as competition parameters

Investments in market penetration and regional expansion

M&A strategies in digital platform markets

Open versus closed networks

Advertising and big data

Value and limits of targeted advertising

Localization and internationalization strategies

More Information


Online courses



Berlin , Germany





Online courses