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The University of Southampton
Web Science Institute

Digital Reconfiguration in the Retail Sector


High street retailing has always been a competitive sector, where businesses have sought to innovate and introduce new technology. The last decade has seen the emergence of digital intermediaries, platforms which have become powerful actors in the reorganisation of digital retail, creating new markets for consumers, and novel opportunities for both large and smaller retailers, while introducing further competition and collecting more complex data from consumers. In particular, an important group of what are referred to as infomediaries, that is to say online operators who hold no physical inventory, but who operate in, and who curate the transaction space between consumers and suppliers, making their profits on both sides of a transaction, have transformed some sectors of traditional retail.
In a context of limited research into how web science and data, both open and proprietary, have reshaped retail markets and digital business models, this project seeks to scope out an ‘evidence base’ which tracks the reshaping of the digital economy’s retail sector – creating a retail ‘Web Observatory’. This evidence base and early analysis will be used to support future research into the development of (open) data driven and web science innovations which are fundamentally reshaping the retail sector.


Professor Michelle Lowe, Southampton Business School

Professor Neil Wrigley, Geography and the Environment

Professor Les Carr, ECS, Faculty of Physical Sciences and Engineering

Dr Tom Wainwright, WSI Visiting Researcher


Final report.



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