A business model describes the rationale of how an organization creates, delivers, and captures value, in economic, social, cultural or other contexts. The process of business model construction and modification is also called business model innovation and forms a part of business strategy.
In theory and practice, the term business model is used for a broad range of informal and formal descriptions to represent core aspects of a business, including purpose, business process, target customers, offerings, strategies, infrastructure, organizational structures, sourcing, trading practices, and operational processes and policies including culture.
The literature has provided very diverse interpretations and definitions of a business model. A systematic review and analysis of manager responses to a survey defines business models as the design of organizational structures to enact a commercial opportunity. Further extensions to this design logic emphasize the use of narrative or coherence in business model descriptions as mechanisms by which entrepreneurs create extraordinarily successful growth firms.
Business models are used to describe and classify businesses, especially in an entrepreneurial setting, but they are also used by managers inside companies to explore possibilities for future development. Well-known business models can operate as "recipes" for creative managers. Business models are also referred to in some instances within the context of accounting for purposes of public reporting.
Over the years, business models have become much more sophisticated. The bait and hook business model (also referred to as the "razor and blades business model" or the "tied products business model") was introduced in the early 20th century. This involves offering a basic product at a very low cost, often at a loss (the "bait"), then charging compensatory recurring amounts for refills or associated products or services (the "hook"). Examples include: razor (bait) and blades (hook); cell phones (bait) and air time (hook); computer printers (bait) and ink cartridge refills (hook); and cameras (bait) and prints (hook). A variant of this model is Adobe, a software developer that gives away its document reader free of charge but charges several hundred dollars for its document writer.
In the 1950s, new business models came from McDonald's Restaurants and Toyota. In the 1960s, the innovators were Wal-Mart and Hypermarkets. The 1970s saw new business models from FedEx and Toys R Us; the 1980s from Blockbuster, Home Depot, Intel, and Dell Computer; the 1990s from Southwest Airlines, Netflix, eBay, Amazon.com, and Starbucks.
Today, the type of business models might depend on how technology is used. For example, entrepreneurs on the internet have also created entirely new models that depend entirely on existing or emergent technology. Using technology, businesses can reach a large number of customers with minimal costs. In addition, the rise of outsourcing and globalization has meant that business models must also account for strategic sourcing, complex supply chains and moves to collaborative, relational contracting structures.
Design logic views the business model as an outcome of creating new organizational structures or changing existing structures to pursue a new opportunity. Gerry George and Adam Bock (2011) conducted a comprehensive literature review and surveyed managers to understand how they perceived the components of a business model. In that analysis these authors show that there is a design logic behind how entrepreneurs and managers perceive and explain their business model. In further extensions to the design logic, George and Bock (2012) use case studies and the IBM survey data on business models in large companies, to describe how CEOs and entrepreneurs create narratives or stories in a coherent manner to move the business from one opportunity to another. They also show that when the narrative is incoherent or the components of the story are misaligned, that these businesses tend to fail. They recommend ways in which the entrepreneur or CEO can create strong narratives for change.
Berglund and Sandström (2013) argued that business models should be understood from an open systems perspective as opposed to being a firm-internal concern. Since innovating firms do not have executive control over their surrounding network, business model innovation tends to require soft power tactics with the goal of aligning heterogeneous interests.. As a result, open business models are created as firms increasingly rely on partners and suppliers to provide new activities that are outside their competence base . In a study of collaborative research and external sourcing of technology, Hummel et al. (2010) similarly found that in deciding on business partners, it is important to make sure that both parties' business models are complementary. For example, they found that it was important to identify the value drivers of potential partners by analyzing their business models, and that it is beneficial to find partner firms that understand key aspects of our own firm's business model.
The University of Tennessee conducted research into highly collaborative business relationships. Researchers codified their research into a sourcing business model known as Vested (also referred to as Vested Outsourcing). Vested is a hybrid sourcing business model in which buyers and suppliers in an outsourcing or business relationship focus on shared values and goals to create an arrangement that is highly collaborative and mutually beneficial to each.
Sangeet Paul Choudary (2013) distinguishes between two broad families of business models in an article in Wired magazine. Choudary contrasts pipes (linear business models) with platforms (networked business models). In the case of pipes, firms create goods and services, push them out and sell them to customers. Value is produced upstream and consumed downstream. There is a linear flow, much like water flowing through a pipe. Unlike pipes, platforms do not just create and push stuff out. They allow users to create and consume value.
Alex Moazed, founder and CEO of Applico, defines a platform as a business model that creates value by facilitating exchanges between two or more interdependent groups usually consumers and producers of a given value. As a result of digital transformation, it is the predominant business model of the 21st century.
There are three elements to a successful platform business model. The Toolbox creates connection by making it easy for others to plug into the platform. This infrastructure enables interactions between participants. The Magnet creates pull that attracts participants to the platform. For transaction platforms, both producers and consumers must be present to achieve critical mass. The Matchmaker fosters the flow of value by making connections between producers and consumers. Data is at the heart of successful matchmaking, and distinguishes platforms from other business models.
Chen (2009) stated that the business model has to take into account the capabilities of Web 2.0, such as collective intelligence, network effects, user-generated content, and the possibility of self-improving systems. He suggested that the service industry such as the airline, traffic, transportation, hotel, restaurant, information and communications technology and online gaming industries will be able to benefit in adopting business models that take into account the characteristics of Web 2.0. He also emphasized that Business Model 2.0 has to take into account not just the technology effect of Web 2.0 but also the networking effect. He gave the example of the success story of Amazon in making huge revenues each year by developing an open platform that supports a community of companies that re-use Amazon's on-demand commerce services.
Malone et al. found that some business models, as defined by them, indeed performed better than others in a dataset consisting of the largest U.S. firms, in the period 1998 through 2002, while they did not prove whether the existence of a business model mattered.
In the healthcare space, and in particular in companies that leverage the power of Artificial Intelligence, the design of business models is particularly challenging as there are a multitude of value creation mechanisms and a multitude of possible stakeholders. An emerging categorization has identified seven archetypes.
In the context of the Software-Cluster, which is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, a business model wizard for software companies has been developed. It supports the design and analysis of software business models. The tool's underlying concept and data were published in various scientific publications.
The concept of a business model has been incorporated into certain accounting standards. For example, the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) utilizes an "entity's business model for managing the financial assets" as a criterion for determining whether such assets should be measured at amortized cost or at fair value in its financial instruments accounting standard, IFRS 9. In their 2013 proposal for accounting for financial instruments, the Financial Accounting Standards Board also proposed a similar use of business model for classifying financial instruments. The concept of business model has also been introduced into the accounting of deferred taxes under International Financial Reporting Standards with 2010 amendments to IAS 12 addressing deferred taxes related to investment property.
Both IASB and FASB have proposed using the concept of business model in the context of reporting a lessor's lease income and lease expense within their joint project on accounting for leases. In its 2016 lease accounting model, IFRS 16, the IASB chose not to include a criterion of "stand alone utility" in its lease definition because "entities might reach different conclusions for contracts that contain the same rights of use, depending on differences between customers' resources or suppliers' business models." The concept has also been proposed as an approach for determining the measurement and classification when accounting for insurance contracts. As a result of the increasing prominence the concept of business model has received in the context of financial reporting, the European Financial Reporting Advisory Group (EFRAG), which advises the European Union on endorsement of financial reporting standards, commenced a project on the "Role of the Business Model in Financial Reporting" in 2011.
Business model design generally refers to the activity of designing a company's business model. It is part of the business development and business strategy process and involves design methods. Massa and Tucci (2014)  highlighted the difference between crafting a new business model when none is in place, as it is often the case with academic spinoffs and high technology entrepreneurship, and changing an existing business model, such as when the tooling company Hilti shifted from selling its tools to a leasing model. They suggested that the differences are so profound (for example, lack of resource in the former case and inertia and conflicts with existing configurations and organisational structures in the latter) that it could be worthwhile to adopt different terms for the two. They suggest business model design to refer to the process of crafting a business model when none is in place and business model reconfiguration for process of changing an existing business model, also highlighting that the two process are not mutually exclusive, meaning reconfiguration may involve steps which parallel those of designing a business model.
Al-Debei and Avison (2010) consider value finance as one of the main dimensions of BM which depicts information related to costing, pricing methods, and revenue structure. Stewart and Zhao (2000) defined the business model as a statement of how a firm will make money and sustain its profit stream over time. 
Osterwalder et al. (2005) consider the Business Model as the blueprint of how a company does business. Slywotzky (1996) regards the business model as the totality of how a company selects its customers, defines and differentiates it offerings, defines the tasks it will perform itself and those it will outsource, configures its resources, goes to market, creates utility for customers and captures profits. 
Mayo and Brown (1999) considered the business model as the design of key interdependent systems that create and sustain a competitive business.  Casadesus-Masanell and Ricart (2011) explain a business model as a set of choices (policy, assets and governance) and consequences (flexible and rigid) and underline the importance of considering how it interacts with models of other players in the industry instead of thinking of it in isolation.
Zott and Amit (2009) consider business model design from the perspectives of design themes and design content. Design themes refer to the system's dominant value creation drivers and design content examines in greater detail the activities to be performed, the linking and sequencing of the activities and who will perform the activities.
Developing a Framework for Business Model Development with an emphasis on Design Themes, Lim (2010) proposed the Environment-Strategy-Structure-Operations (ESSO) Business Model Development which takes into consideration the alignment of the organization's strategy with the organization's structure, operations, and the environmental factors in achieving competitive advantage in varying combination of cost, quality, time, flexibility, innovation and affective.
Business model design includes the modeling and description of a company's:
A business model design template can facilitate the process of designing and describing a company's business model.
Daas et al. (2012) developed a decision support system (DSS) for business model design. In their study a decision support system (DSS) is developed to help SaaS in this process, based on a design approach consisting of a design process that is guided by various design methods.
In the early history of business models it was very typical to define business model types such as bricks-and-mortar or e-broker. However, these types usually describe only one aspect of the business (most often the revenue model). Therefore, more recent literature on business models concentrate on describing a business model as a whole, instead of only the most visible aspects.
The following examples provide an overview for various business model types that have been in discussion since the invention of term business model:
Other examples of business models are:
Technology centric communities have defined "frameworks" for business modeling. These frameworks attempt to define a rigorous approach to defining business value streams. It is not clear, however, to what extent such frameworks are actually important for business planning. Business model frameworks represent the core aspect of any company; they involve "the totality of how a company selects its customers defines and differentiates its offerings, defines the tasks it will perform itself and those it will outsource, configures its resource, goes to market, creates utility for customers, and captures profits". A business framework involves internal factors (market analysis; products/services promotion; development of trust; social influence and knowledge sharing) and external factors (competitors and technological aspects).
A review on business model frameworks can be found in Krumeich et al. (2012). In the following some frameworks are introduced.
The process of business model design is part of business strategy. Business model design and innovation refer to the way a firm (or a network of firms) defines its business logic at the strategic level.
In contrast, firms implement their business model at the operational level, through their business operations. This refers to their process-level activities, capabilities, functions and infrastructure (for example, their business processes and business process modeling), their organizational structures (e.g. organigrams, workflows, human resources) and systems (e.g. information technology architecture, production lines).
Consequently, an operationally viable and feasible business model requires lateral alignment with the underlining business operations.
The brand is a consequence of the business model and has a symbiotic relationship with it, because the business model determines the brand promise, and the brand equity becomes a feature of the model. Managing this is a task of integrated marketing.
The standard terminology and examples of business models do not apply to most nonprofit organizations, since their sources of income are generally not the same as the beneficiaries. The term 'funding model' is generally used instead.
The model is defined by the organization's vision, mission, and values, as well as sets of boundaries for the organization—what products or services it will deliver, what customers or markets it will target, and what supply and delivery channels it will use. While the business model includes high-level strategies and tactical direction for how the organization will implement the model, it also includes the annual goals that set the specific steps the organization intends to undertake in the next year and the measures for their expected accomplishment. Each of these is likely to be part of internal documentation that is available to the internal auditor.
When an organisation creates a new business model, the process is called business model innovation. There is a range of reviews on the topic, the latter of which defines business model innovation as the conceptualisation and implementation of new business models. This can comprise the development of entirely new business models, the diversification into additional business models, the acquisition of new business models, or the transformation from one business model to another (see figure on the right). The transformation can affect the entire business model or individual or a combination of its value proposition, value creation and deliver, and value capture elements, the interrelations between the elements, and the value network. The concept facilitates the analysis and planning of transformations from one business model to another. Frequent and successful business model innovation can increase an organisation’s resilience to changes in its environment and if an organisation has the capability to do this, it can become a competitive advantage.
The "liquid" model now being pursued is not limited to IBM. [...] It is no accident that IBM is looking to Germany as the country to pilot this model. Since the Hartz welfare and labour "reforms" of the former Social Democratic Party-Green government (1998-2005), Germany is at the forefront in developing forms of precarious employment. [...] The IBM model globalises the so-called employment contract, increasingly replacing agency working as the preferred form of low-wage labour. Companies assign key tasks to subcontractors, paying only for each project.
Allegiant Air (usually shortened to Allegiant and stylized as allegiant) is an American discount airline that operates scheduled and charter flights. As a major air carrier, it is the ninth-largest commercial airline in the US. It is wholly owned by Allegiant Travel Company, a publicly traded company with 4,000 employees and over US$2.6 billion market capitalization. The corporate headquarters are in Summerlin, Nevada, a suburb of Las Vegas.AuthorHouse
AuthorHouse, formerly known as 1stBooks, is a self-publishing company based in the United States. AuthorHouse uses print-on-demand business model and technology. AuthorHouse and its parent company, Author Solutions, are subsidiaries of Najafi Companies.Brave (web browser)
Brave is a free and open-source web browser developed by Brave Software Inc. based on the Chromium web browser. The browser blocks ads and website trackers. In a future version of the browser, the company has proposed adopting a pay-to-surf business model.As of 2018, Brave supports Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS. The current version features 20 search engines by default, including their partner DuckDuckGo.Business Model Canvas
Business Model Canvas is a strategic management and lean startup template for developing new or documenting existing business models. It is a visual chart with elements describing a firm's or product's value proposition, infrastructure, customers, and finances. It assists firms in aligning their activities by illustrating potential trade-offs.
The Business Model Canvas was initially proposed by Alexander Osterwalder based on his earlier work on Business Model Ontology. Since the release of Osterwalder's work in 2008, new canvases for specific niches have appeared.Commercial software
Commercial software, or seldom payware, is computer software that is produced for sale or that serves commercial purposes. Commercial software can be proprietary software or free and open-source software.Electronic business
Online Business or e-business is any kind of business or commercial transaction that includes sharing information across the internet. Commerce constitutes the exchange of products and services between businesses, groups and individuals and can be seen as one of the essential activities of any business. Electronic commerce focuses on the use of ICT to enable the external activities and relationships of the business with individuals, groups and other businesses, while e-business refers to business with help of the internet. The term "e-business" was coined by IBM's marketing and Internet team in 1996.Freemium
Freemium, a portmanteau of the words "free" and "premium", is a pricing strategy by which a product or service (typically a digital offering or an application such as software, media, games or web services) is provided free of charge, but money (premium) is charged for additional features, services, or virtual (online) or physical (offline) goods. The business model has been in use by the software industry since the 1980s as a licensing scheme. A subset of this model used by the video game industry is called free-to-play.Lean startup
Lean startup is a methodology for developing businesses and products, which aims to shorten product development cycles and rapidly discover if a proposed business model is viable; this is achieved by adopting a combination of business-hypothesis-driven experimentation, iterative product releases, and validated learning.
Central to the lean startup methodology is the assumption that when startup companies invest their time into iteratively building products or services to meet the needs of early customers, the company can reduce market risks and sidestep the need for large amounts of initial project funding and expensive product launches and failures.Low-cost carrier
A low-cost carrier or low-cost airline (occasionally referred to as no-frills, budget or discount carrier, and abbreviated as LCC) is an airline that is operated with an especially high emphasis on minimizing operating costs and without some of the traditional services and amenities provided in the fare, resulting in lower fares and fewer comforts. To make up for revenue lost in decreased ticket prices, the airline may charge extra fees – such as for carry-on baggage. As of July 2014, the world's largest low-cost carrier is Southwest Airlines, which operates in the United States and some surrounding areas.
The term originated within the airline industry referring to airlines with a lower operating cost structure than their competitors. While the term is often applied to any carrier with low ticket prices and limited services, regardless of their operating models, low-cost carriers should not be confused with regional airlines that operate short flights without service, or with full-service airlines offering some reduced fares.
Some airlines actively advertise themselves as low-cost, budget, or discount airlines while maintaining products usually associated with traditional mainline carrier's services—which can increase operational complexity. These products include preferred or assigned seating, catering other items rather than basic beverages, differentiated premium cabins, satellite or ground-based Wi-Fi internet, and in-flight audio and video entertainment. More recently, the term "ultra low-cost carrier" differentiates some low-cost carriers, particularly in North America where traditional airlines increasingly offer a similar service model to low-cost carriers.Naxos Records
Naxos Records is a record label specializing in classical music. Through a number of imprints, Naxos also releases Chinese music, jazz, world music, and early rock and roll. The company was founded in 1987 by Klaus Heymann, a German-born resident of Hong Kong. Since 2009 Naxos has distributed Blu-ray discs, streaming web radio, and podcasts. Naxos allows members of subscribing public libraries and music schools such as Hong Kong Public Libraries, Auckland Libraries, Wellington City Libraries, and Toronto Public Library free streaming of Naxos classical and jazz collections.Network effect
A network effect (also called network externality or demand-side economies of scale) is the effect described in economics and business that an additional user of a good or service has on the value of that product to others. When a network effect is present, the value of a product or service increases according to the number of others using it.The classic example is the telephone, where a greater number of users increases the value to each. A positive externality is created when a telephone is purchased without its owner intending to create value for other users, but does so regardless. Online social networks work similarly, with sites like Twitter and Facebook increasing in value to each member as more users join.
The network effect can create a bandwagon effect as the network becomes more valuable and more people join, resulting in a positive feedback loop.
The expression "network effect" is applied to positive network externalities as in the case of the telephone. Negative network externalities can also occur, where more users make a product less valuable, but they are more commonly referred to as "congestion" (as in traffic congestion or network congestion).Newsletter
A newsletter is a printed report containing news (information) of the activities of a business (legal name; subscription business model) or an organization (institutions, societies, associations) that is sent by mail regularly to all its members, customers, employees or people, who are interested in. Newsletters generally contain one main topic of interest to its recipients. A newsletter may be considered grey literature. E-newsletters are delivered electronically via e-mail and can be viewed as spamming if e-mail marketing is sent unsolicited.Online auction
An online auction is an auction which is held over the internet. Online auctions come in many different formats, but most popularly they are ascending English auctions, descending Dutch auctions, first-price sealed-bid, Vickrey auctions, or sometimes even a combination of multiple auctions, taking elements of one and forging them with another. The scope and reach of these auctions have been propelled by the Internet to a level beyond what the initial purveyors had anticipated. This is mainly because online auctions break down and remove the physical limitations of traditional auctions such as geography, presence, time, space, and a small target audience. This influx in reachability has also made it easier to commit unlawful actions within an auction. In 2002, online auctions were projected to account for 30% of all online e-commerce due to the rapid expansion of the popularity of the form of electronic commerce.Open-core model
The open-core model is a business model for the monetization of commercially-produced open-source software. Coined by Andrew Lampitt in 2008, the open-core model primarily involves offering a "core" or feature-limited version of a software product as free and open-source software, while offering "commercial" versions or add-ons as proprietary software.Pyramid scheme
A pyramid scheme is a business model that recruits members via a promise of payments or services for enrolling others into the scheme, rather than supplying investments or sale of products. As recruiting multiplies, recruiting becomes quickly impossible, and most members are unable to profit; as such, pyramid schemes are unsustainable and often illegal.
Pyramid schemes have existed for at least a century in different guises. Some multi-level marketing plans have been classified as pyramid schemes.Service economy
Service economy can refer to one or both of two recent economic developments:
The increased importance of the service sector in industrialized economies. The current list of Fortune 500 companies contains more service companies and fewer manufacturers than in previous decades.
The relative importance of service in a product offering. The service economy in developing countries is mostly concentrated in financial services, hospitality, retail, health, human services, information technology and education. Products today have a higher service component than in previous decades. In the management literature this is referred to as the servitization of products or a product-service system. Virtually every product today has a service component to it.The old dichotomy between product and service has been replaced by a service-product continuum. Many products are being transformed into services.
For example, IBM treats its business as a service business. Although it still manufactures computers, it sees the physical goods as a small part of the "business solutions" industry. They have found that the price elasticity of demand for "business solutions" is much less than for hardware. There has been a corresponding shift to a subscription pricing model. Rather than receiving a single payment for a piece of manufactured equipment, many manufacturers are now receiving a steady stream of revenue for ongoing contracts.
Full cost accounting and most accounting reform and monetary reform measures are usually thought to be impossible to achieve without a good model of the service economy.
Since the 1950s, the global economy has undergone a structural transformation. For this change, the American economist Victor R. Fuchs called it “the service economy” in 1968. He believes that the United States has taken the lead in entering the service economy and society in the Western countries. The declaration heralded the arrival of a service economy that began in the United States on a global scale. With the rapid development of information revolution and technology, the service economy has also shown new development trends.Startup company
A startup or start up is a company initiated by individual founders or entrepreneurs to search for a repeatable and scalable business model. More specifically, a startup is a newly emerged business venture that aims to develop a viable business model to meet a marketplace need or problem. Founders design startups to effectively develop and validate a scalable business model. Hence, the concepts of startups and entrepreneurship are similar. However, entrepreneurship refers all new businesses, including self-employment and businesses that never intend to grow big or become registered, while startups refer to new businesses that intend to grow beyond the solo founder, have employees, and intend to grow large. Start ups face high uncertainty and do have high rates of failure, but the minority that go on to be successful companies have the potential to become large and influential. Some startups become unicorns, i.e. privately held startup companies valued at over $1 billion.Subscription business model
The subscription business model is a business model in which a customer must pay a recurring price at regular intervals for access to a product or service. The model was pioneered by publishers of books and periodicals in the 17th century, and is now used by many businesses and websites.WebCite
WebCite is an on-demand archiving service, designed to digitally preserve scientific and educationally important material on the web by making snapshots of Internet contents as they existed at the time when a blogger, or a scholar or a Wikipedia editor cited or quoted from it. The preservation service enables verifiability of claims supported by the cited sources even when the original web pages are being revised, removed, or disappear for other reasons, an effect known as link rot.