All posts by bernicehiltrop

Impact sourcing by Samasource

For this third blogpost, I have chosen a company that has triggered my attention lately, it is called Samasource. According to Fast Company (2016), Samasource is one of the Most Innovative Companies at the moment. Personally, I agree mostly due to its social character. Samasource has the mission to fight poverty through offering work to unemployed people around the world. All in the company’s name as the meaning of Sama is equal in Sanskrit, and thus referring to a fair world. First, I will analyze the current non-profit business model of Samasource and elaborate on the unique social impact generated by the company. Then, the efficiency of the model is critically accessed, concluding with suggestions for further impact.

The business model is based on the concept impact sourcing also known as socially responsible sourcing. Processes that can be outsourced to Samasource are related to the structuring of unstructured data sets. The figure below clearly visualizes the steps taken when getting involved.

samasource process.png

In the figure, multiple parties can be identified in the process. Therefore, the most important stakeholders and their involvement are discussed. First, clients are well-known companies as Walmart, Google, and Ebay. I believe it is a strength that these brands are doing business with Samasource as it associates trustworthiness, a large responsibility, and fair pricing. The last aspect is assumed as these clients are commercially focused, and thus participate only when prices for acting socially responsible are interesting. Then, the employees can be divided into the organizational staff and world-wide executing employees. Interestingly, the Sama Group used to be divided into two divisions, namely Samaschool and Samahope. The first clearly explaining its purpose as it provides the opportunity to low-income American community college students to improve digital skills. The latter is less self-explanatory, but it was a crowdfunding platform aiming to fund life changing treatments for women and children. However, in December 2015 the platform got acquired by Johnsen & Johnsen and therefore, it is part of Caring Crowd now. This leads to the third party, the crowd. Currently, the crowd is still part of the business model, nevertheless, only in a very passive manner by donating.

On the one hand, I truly think this business model is an outstanding idea due to the long-term social perspective on improving lives by educating and offering jobs. Moreover, the benefit trade-off for employees and clients is very high. Especially, the non-profit strategy of the company indicates fair costs for conducting the service. On the other hand, I really believe consumer involvement could be improved as the contribution of this party is very limited. Examples of interactive and active participation of the crowd would be signing up for teaching digital skills or perhaps creating a triangle where small entrepreneurs could request their datasets to be structured, the employees will work for this, and third parties could donate the wages for executing this specific task (win-win-win). Additionally, political limitations could occur in case a country’s safety decreases, affecting the company’s practices.

All in all, I believe Samasource has a long-term solution to address poverty in an equal manner. And therefore, a great example for many!


From on-line to off-line successes, Amazon Books.

In this post, I would like to follow-up on the earlier essay named ‘Amazon go: invisible interaction yet visible personalization’ as well as focus on certain aspects of the future of retail. I believe the Amazon Go concept is not entirely new. Of course, the aspect of no cashiers and no lines is innovative, however the movement from pure online players to owning brick-and-mortar stores successfully is not new. In a Harvard Business Review article by Porter (2001), it was already indicated that that off- and on-line practices complement one another. More recent studies such as a consumer goods report by McKinsey (2016) on the sales practices of Europe’s leading consumer-goods companies indicates that one of the successful criteria of a company is to make bold omnichannel investments.

Amazon would be a great example of extensive omnichannel investments. Aside from Amazon Go, another example would be Amazon Books. A previous pure online player opening physical sources is outstanding in the book or publish industry where most players, like Barnes and Nobles, are actually closing their doors and disappearing in shopping areas (Enwemeka, 2017). Ironically, it comes across as if the Amazon online store has facilitated for the (re-)opening of Amazon Books shops. Just a couple of days ago, another new Amazon Books has been opened in Massachusetts (Enwemeka, 2017). All, related to a long-term plan introduced earlier last year to continue opening the successful bookstores of Amazon (Hook and Whipp, 2016).

What makes these Amazon Books so unique? How do they compete against other players?

One of the most interesting and innovative features of the store is the usage of online aspects implemented in the physical stores. More specifically, the user reviews and ratings as displayed in the web shop (and in the picture below) are also provided in the bookshop and therefore, contributing their service effortlessly to off-line customers as well. Moreover, differentiating themselves from other bookstores.


Second, only top-rated books are offered in the physical store, all provided enough space for customer to easily identify them resulting in higher convenience. Then, a third difference would be that no prices are given instore in order to provide the fluctuating prices which are also on Customers can access prices through usage of mobile applications, a real omnichannel approach (Zetlin, 2016).

From current experience in retail, I expect most difficulties to occur in operational tasks. For example, the updating of reviews and ratings for all books in store. Not to forget, these books might also be rapidly changing due to the business model’s need of providing top-rated books only. These concerns will increase when Amazon Books shops will continue to expand. Lastly, how could off-line reviews be implemented in the current concept?

To conclude, I believe that customers of Amazon Books truly experience an omnichannel world, where both off- and on-line is integrated. Ready for the future of retail.


Enwemeka (2017)

Hook and Whipp (2016)

McKinsey (2016)

Porter, M.E. (2001) Strategy and the Internet. Harvard Business Review 79(3) 62-79.

Zetlin (2016)


Open supplier innovation?

In class, it was stated that the best ideas in crowdsourcing come from people outside the topic or differently stated, without much knowledge on the good or service. In this post, I would like to take the opportunity to stress the influence of supplier involvement when discussing open innovation to generate ideas. Thus, using a different perspective, more B2B and upstream focused. Would it be helpful in idea generation to include knowledgeable suppliers?

In the article by Alexy et al. (2011), it was noticed that input delivered by suppliers was interesting as specific technical needs are known, resulting in higher quality ideas submitted. Therefore, concluding that signaling more requirements or restrictions to consumers could increase the number of valuable submissions. This could address an aspect also mentioned during the class, where companies (e.g., Philips and Dell) face issues with the quality delivered by submissions of the crowd.

First, supplier involvement can be considered as “the integration of the capabilities that suppliers can contribute to NPD projects” (Johnsen, 2009, p. 187).  A literature review by Johnsen (2009) states factors that successfully affect supplier involvement. The successful factors studied are supplier selection, supplier relationship development & adaption, and internal customer capabilities. These factors facilitate a shorter time for the product to enter the market as well as improve the product quality, and reduce development and product costs. More importantly, the review indicates that supplier involvement should be further studied in-depth as different thoughts on innovation related to the involvement of suppliers exist. Namely, the article states that existing suppliers could be too familiar with the product leading to limited innovation. Thus, in line with earlier mentioned, a ‘crowd’ without prior knowledge provides better solutions.

Later, a North American longitudinal study by Yeniyurt et al. (2014), specifically on supplier involvement in buyer’s NPD, indicates that among various aspects, buyer-supplier communication and suppliers’ trust of a buyer significantly influences the participation of a supplier towards co-innovation and supplier involvement in a buyer’s NPD. Furthermore, the study found that co-innovation as well as financial performance of both the supplier and buyer increases when suppliers are actively involved in the buyers NPD. Hence, more reasons supporting the involvement of suppliers when aiming to generate ideas.

A related business an example can be taken from the Unilever. In 2012, Unilever launched an ‘Open Innovation Submission Portal’ to collaborate with its suppliers. Currently, the platform is still perceived as successful and therefore, still operating and evolving (Procurementleaders, 2012; Unilever, 2017). The portal provides experts of certain processes to share and optimize products from their specialist or technical view.

All in all, I do believe that it is valuable for companies, aiming to be innovative, to include suppliers in generating ideas on product development. Not only to create submissions of higher quality, and a trustful relationship. Moreover, a broad and diverse crowd consisting of both consumers and suppliers might be optimal in order to include all viewpoints to generate the best value for the customer.


Alexy, O., Criscuolo, P., & Salter, A. (2011). No soliciting: strategies for managing unsolicited innovative ideas. California Management Review, 54(3), 116-139.

Johnsen, T., E., (2009). Supplier involvement in new product development and innovation: Taking stock and looking to the future. Journal of Purchasing and Supply Management, 15 (3), 187-197.

Yeniyurt, S., Henke, J.W., & Yalcinkaya, G. (2014) A longitudinal analysis of supplier involvement in buyers’ new product development: working relations, inter-dependence, co-innovation, and performance outcomes. Journal of Academey of Marketing Science, 42, 291-308.