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Digital Transformation

Interdisciplinary and international research in Cologne

Digital transformation is a phenomenon of our time which penetrates almost all areas of human life: the way we do business, the way we communicate and the way we perceive our environment to name just a few. The changes are massive and here to stay.

The University of Cologne’s Faculty of Economics, Management, and Social Sciences has established the research initiative 'Digital Transformation and Value Creation' to contribute to our understanding of how the digital transformation adds value to business life for both customers and companies and to social life, increasing the overall welfare for individuals and society as a whole.

By Nina Maria Kohl

The researchers working within the initiative are trying to find answers to many questions. Among the most pressing ones are:

  • When and how can customers benefit from the digital transformation?
  • When and how can companies benefit from the digital transformation?
  • When and how can individuals within society and society at large benefit from the digital transformation?

Four disciplines under one roof

Werner Reinartz, Professor of Marketing at the University of Cologne and speaker of the research initiative, has brought together academics from four different disciplines (marketing, information systems, economics, and psychology) for a reason: "The impact that the digital technology has on economic and societal phenomena is by definition not confined to individual social science functions. For example, the big data explosion challenges consumers in their decision-making-process, it challenges marketers in their response to increasingly individual consumer needs, and firms in their technological capabilities. Hence, from a social science perspective it makes a lot of sense to group researchers with different expertise under one roof. Of course, this umbrella might at some stage be enlarged still by health sciences or law, for instance", explains Professor Reinartz.

Werner Reinartz

The impact that the digital technology has on economic and societal phenomena is by definition not confined to individual social science functions. Hence, from a social science perspective it makes a lot of sense to group researchers with different expertise under one roof.

Werner Reinartz, Professor of Marketing and Speaker of the research initiative "Digital Transformation and Value Creation", University of Cologne

International research network

Yet researchers within the initiative not only work across disciplines, they also work across national borders. "Networking with international and leading research partners is part and parcel of our general research approach. This is not only to establish new relationships and strengthen existing ones – which are already plentiful, but it also raises the profile of the Cologne initiative within the international community," adds Professor Reinartz. The initiative’s world-wide reputation has already prompted many international scientists to come to Cologne.

Esther Kang is a Junior Professor of Consumer Psychology and Behaviour from South Korea. She was attracted by the University of Cologne’s reputation as one of the world’s leading research institutions especially in her field of marketing and social cognitive psychology as well as the interdisciplinary working environment. "We are living in a place where bits and atoms come together. The significance of research on consistency as well as inconsistency in consumer behaviour on- and offline is increasing. I believe that through interdisciplinary research activities compelling and innovative ideas and approaches can be developed", she says.



Research approaches and global nomads in science

The location might only play a minor role for scientists in general when choosing their workplace - the citizens of Cologne will be disappointed to hear: "I am working with researchers worldwide. I think most behavioural scholars in management and psychology are ‘global nomads’. They have an international life style and have loosened ties to country origins," the young researcher observes.

Esther Kang

We are living in a place where bits and atoms come together. The significance of research on consistency as well as inconsistency in consumer behaviour on- and offline is increasing. I believe that through interdisciplinary research activities compelling and innovative ideas and approaches can be developed.

Esther Kang, Junior Professor of Consumer Psychology and Behaviour

This also applies to Dr Kang’s colleague Hernán Bruno, a professor of marketing, who could indeed be described as a ‘global nomad’. Professor Bruno originates from Argentina, but has studied and worked in many different countries such as Great Britain, the Netherlands and France before joining the new team in Cologne. His research interests lie in the traditional areas of marketing and how they are changing in the course of the digital transformation. "We are researching the development of traditional advertising. With the arrival of digital advertising companies are provided with the possibility of disseminating highly targeted messages across digital platforms allowing for high repetitions. In one of my projects, my co-authors and I are looking into the negative effects of too many repetitions", he explains.

Despite being a global nomad, Professor Bruno seems to have settled – Cologne citizens will again be pleased to hear: "The quality of life is great, the opportunities for children and the safety. Germany remains highly underrated as a destination to travel and to immigrate for work, particularly for professionals and academics," he concludes.

Hernán Bruno

Germany remains highly underrated as a destination to travel and to immigrate for work, particularly for professionals and academics

Hernán Bruno, Professor of Marketing