Drivers of online sales: An integrated study of customer reviews and backward effects

In February 2018, the third movie in an American series Fifty Shades was released. The movie itself earned a significant amount of success in opening weekend revenue – $38,560,195 in USA (Source: At the same time, the book version of the series also enjoyed additional sales from such release. Interestingly enough, not only the book three, the one on which the movie was based, but the first book in the series also gained major benefits. In fact, even though this is not the first time the series released a movie, the Amazon salesrank of the first book Fifty Shades of Grey still dropped to the lowest point 494 within one week of release from the peak 11,715 it reached two months ago (Source: The decreasing salesrank indicates an increase in book sales on the website.

According to brand extension theories, the phenomenon that an introduction of extension affects the consumption of original product is referred to as reciprocal spillover effect or backward effect. The above-mentioned case of Fifty Shades is an evident example; yet, the phenomenon can be observed in various occurrences such as when artists release new album, etc. Interested in the phenomenon, in my thesis I investigated the effect of releasing a new book on the first book sales using data collected from With the use of linear mixed-effects models, I found that the first book sales indeed decreased during the release of a new book. Besides that, the success of a new book determined the volume of extra sales. One surprising finding was that for popular book, the earlier release of new book enjoys more radical backward effect than the subsequence. However, this might not be the case for less popular book, particularly for extremely unpopular ones

Factors affecting product sales have always been an intriguing topic of research and word-of-mouth communication has been considered as one of the most influential drivers of sales. Especially in today’s world, online word-of-mouth possesses even more profound effect owning to its incredible spread and breadth. Searching on Google Scholar using keywords ‘effect of online reviews on sales’, one can easily find more than 700,000 papers, which demonstrates the rigorous attention of academic community to the topic. As a result, I chose to examine the role of online reviews. The result suggested that book rating alone did not have any significant persuasive effect on sales. In contrast, the number of reviews and its interaction with ratings did the job once consumers are informed about the parent product upon exposing to extension information.

Hien Nguyen

Master’s Thesis title: The reciprocal spillover effect in online book sales. Integrated with the effect of online reviews

Supervisor: Dr. Ville-Veikko Piispanen

Value creation in sales management

Financial administration field is going through major changes. Rapid and constant change in the field such as the changing role of accountant, growing digitalization and trend of outsourcing. Especially, the ever-growing competition brings challenges for accounting firms.

As a result, accounting firms have changed their organizational structure to response more to customer needs. They have built own sales organization to keep up the competition which has not traditionally been part of the financial administration field.

Customers’ value creation and sales

The purpose of my master’s thesis was to find ways to develop case company’s sales management. More precisely, to study how customer’s value creation contributes to the development of sales management and what kind of values customer’s value creation produces for sales management at the beginning of customer relationship.

The case company comes from the financial administration field which is going through changes. The digitalisation has rapidly increased over the years and will definitely increase all the time and moreover, customer preferences have changed.

Sales organizations in financial administration

So why did I choose this topic? I have a professional experience from the financial administration field and during my master’s studies I studied sales management as my minor studies. It was easy and natural combine these two topics as a research.

I also saw the opportunity for interesting research because as mentioned previously separate sales organization has not traditionally been part of the financial administration field.

Furthermore, it can be seen that when a new customer is reached, there is many value creation points to be managed.

Ideas for developing sales management

The research results showed that value creation process happens if there is interaction between customer and service provider. Especially, the value creation process highlighted the roles of customer, service provider and interactions.

Customer’s value creation produced new values to sales management parts which are sales strategy, sales operations and sales analysis. These values can be used together with existed values which help the development of sales management.

Overall, the practical contribution of my master’s thesis was achieved which was to understand how sales management can be developed.

Jenna Nuutinen

Master’s Thesis Title: Value Creation in Sales Management: Case from Financial Administration Field

Supervisor: Eeva Aromaa

Plausibility and power in commercialization of knowledge

Commercialization of knowledge shakes the traditional practices in the universities throughout the world. Traditionally, universities have focused on teaching and research aiming to peer reviewed academic publications. However, the external pressure in terms of ever tightening research funding as well as universities’ internal interests have been transforming universities towards commercially oriented sources of public welfare since Bayh Dole Act in 1980.

In Finland, this change has been slow and driven often by engineering sciences or sporadic commercialization projects. In my Doctoral Thesis (link), I focused on a two-year commercialization project aimed at developing university-industry co-operation and generating a general commercialization model for the Science Faculty of a Finnish university. The main objective was to analyze how the sense of commercialization is produced over time and how it unfolds and changes through social interaction.

Social interaction in board meetings

According to Karl Weick’s sensemaking framework, people try to understand novel situations through their identity, according to extracted cues from the ongoing events, in a relation to their experiences, and with other people involved. In short, actors try to find a plausible explanation for the things happening around them.

In my data, the board meetings of the project served as a key site where the interaction between various actors took place and where the meanings of commercialization were negotiated, created, and maintained. The data for the study consisted of observations made in the board meetings, board member interviews, and project documents.

This socially constructed understanding of commercialization changed throughout the study, however, leaning little by little towards plausible explanation where challenges in commercialization were caused by a number of factors external to the project.

More plausible than others

The sensemaking framework focuses on socio-psychological properties of understanding, thus it sparsely provides tools to analyze, why a certain plausible meaning exceeds others. Albert Mills and Jean Helms Mills of Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, have introduced critical approach to sensemaking bringing formative context, organizational rules, power, and discursive practices into sensemaking process.

Through this extended heuristics, I found that the meeting and project rules, substance experts’ competence, and power relations between the board members guided a sense of commercialization, and it unfolded and took shape as a plausible commercialization story. The plausible story condensed into a local rule influencing the unfolding understanding of commercialization.

Scientific knowledge in front

In practice, those with academic background led the unfolding plausible story by bringing forth the academic principles and practices, and thus exercising discursive power to determine the commercialization process.

But, the power wasn’t only related to positions but socially constructed, negotiated and maintained in discourses. It was relational to issues considered, the phase of the project, the events, and the actors present in meetings.

Commercialization as a social process

My Thesis indicates that commercialization is a social interaction of which content and plausibility are constructed through making sense of events happening during the process. In academia, scientific knowledge is so dominant (see Montonen 2014) that it might even bypass or overshadow the economic aspects in commercialization process.

Therefore commercialization of academic knowledge might be easier to organize by such organizations of not directly involved to university (see e.g. Maia & Claro 2013; Isabelle 2013).

Outi-Maaria Palo-oja, D.Sc. (Econ. & Bus. Adm.)

Uskottavaa kaupallistamistarinaa punomassa (written in Finnish)
Weaving plausibility into commercialization

Professor Päivi Eriksson, University of Eastern
Lecturer Teuvo Kantanen, University of Eastern Finland
Postdoctoral Researcher Marke Kivijärvi, Jyväskylä University School of Business and Economics

Työssä koettu hyvinvointi osana kasvuliiketoimintaa

Liiketoiminnan kasvu ja työhyvinvointi ovat ajankohtaisia puheenaiheita. Molempia pidetään tavoiteltavina, mutta voivatko työhyvinvointi ja kasvu toteutua samanaikaisesti, samassa yrityksessä, vai onko niiden välillä ristiriita? Miten yksilötason työhyvinvointi ja organisaatiotason kasvu liittyvät toisiinsa?

Laajempi yhteiskunnallinen keskustelu työurien pidentämisestä alleviivaa työssä jaksamisen ja hyvinvoinnin merkitystä, mutta myös haastaa organisaatiot pohtimaan, miten henkilöstön työhyvinvointia voidaan kehittää ja tukea työssä jaksamisen edistämiseksi. Toisaalta taas kasvuyritystä leimaavat usein epävarmuus ja jatkuva muutos, joita voidaan pitää haasteina nimenomaan työhyvinvoinnin näkökulmasta.

Näistä lähtökohdista rakentui pro gradu –tutkielmani, jossa tutkin henkilöstön koettua työhyvinvointia kasvuyrityksessä. Tutkimukseni mukaan tärkeimpiä henkilöstön koettuun työhyvinvointiin vaikuttavia tekijöitä ovat työyhteisön tuki, avoin ilmapiiri, työstä palautuminen, työ- ja yksityiselämän välisen rajapinnan hallinta sekä työnohjaus. Merkittävin työhyvinvointia heikentävä tekijä on kiire; se hankaloittaa jo itsessään työhyvinvointia, mutta vaikuttaa siihen myös välillisesti. Kasvun ei koettu suoranaisesti aiheuttavan stressiä, mutta kasvun tuomia muutoksia ei myöskään toivottu. Välillisesti kasvustrategian toteuttamisen vaikutukset olivat kuitenkin läsnä henkilöstön arjessa, ja näin ollen osa myös heidän hyvinvointiaan.

Työn tunnekuorman käsittely on merkittävässä roolissa työssä jaksamisen tukena, ja siinä auttavat parhaiten työyhteisön eli kollegoiden tuki ja työnohjaus. Työ- ja yksityiselämän välisen rajapinnan hallinnan, työstä palautumisen sekä tukevien kollegoiden ja esimiesten merkitys työhyvinvoinnille on tärkeää. Tukeva ja luottamusta kehittävä johto edistää myös työhyvinvointia. Esimiehet voivat vaikuttaa työhyvinvointiin lisäämällä työnohjauksen saatavuutta, rakentamalla avointa virhekulttuuria ja ennen kaikkea olemalla läsnä. He voivat myös vaikuttaa kiireeseen selkeyttämällä vastuunjakoa ja tarjoamalla keinoja sen hallintaan.

Työelämälähtöisestä näkökulmasta tarkasteltuna työhyvinvoinnin tutkiminen kasvuyrityksessä on tärkeää, jotta olisi mahdollista tunnistaa sen tarjoama potentiaali monipuolisemmin ja jotta osattaisiin suhtautua kasvun tuomiin haasteisiin rakentavammin. Tarvetta kasvun ja työhyvinvoinnin yhdistävälle tutkimukselle on edelleen, sillä kasvustrategiat tarvitsevat toteutuakseen konkreettisia keinoja, joilla molempiin panostetut resurssit tuottaisivat yhdessä maksimaalisen tuloksen. Tutkielmani osoittaa, että henkilöstön työhyvinvoinnin nostaminen keskiöön ei ole itseisarvo sinänsä, vaan väline, joka palvelee koko organisaatiota ja sen tavoitteiden toteutumista. Henkilöstö on yrityksen tärkein voimavara, kivijalka, jonka varaan kasvua on turvallista rakentaa. Yksilön työhyvinvointi ja organisaation kasvu eivät siis ole toisistaan erilliset, vaan pikemminkin jatkuvassa keskinäisessä vuorovaikutuksessa olevat ilmiöt.


Kaisa Kohtamäki

Pro Gradu -tutkielma: Työssä koettu hyvinvointi osana kasvuliiketoimintaa

Ohjaaja: Hanna Lehtimäki


Manufacturing companies search for new ways of generating profits in the rapidly changing and highly competitive global markets. Is servitization the answer? Maintenance, digitalization and R&D support are examples of the wide range of services that are offered to cover the life span of a product. Servitization offers a possibility to differentiate from the competitors and a remedy to the deteriorating profit margins of product sales. Studies show that a too modest service strategy can result in financial losses while opting for a bold strategy with advanced services supports profitability.

Service business is inherently people focused. Developing and delivering services requires substantial input and involvement from not only customers but also employees. My master’s thesis on servitization in the manufacturing industry shows that involving employees from a very early stage of the process is crucial for the success. Employees have a significant role in implementing servitization strategies. There is a lot of tacit knowledge in the organization and this knowledge is transferred through collective sensemaking and meaning making and not so much through documentation. Bringing together tacit knowledge and the servitization plans supports the creation of a shared vision between managers and employees.

Often, servitization calls for an organizational change and with change comes support and resistance. Some individuals and teams in the organization view servitization as an enabler of the future success of the organization while others look at it as an unnecessary obstacle and extra work in their day-to-day work. Creating a shared vision is, therefore, important in leading change. When managers pay attention to the ways by which employees make sense of services and servitization plans, the potential of successful implementation is increased.

The implementation of servitization strategies can be supported by flexible organizational structures, well-planned rewarding systems and management’s readiness to do self-reflection of the impact of their change communication. In other words, close attention to leading the process of implementation of servitization is needed.

Päivi Eskelinen

Master’s Thesis Title:

“Organizational Change and Servitization: Employee Sensemaking in the Manufacturing Industry.”


Thesis supervisor: Päivi Eriksson

Perheyritys – perheenjäsenten uniikki taideteos

Sukupolvenvaihdos on perheyrityksen suurimpia muutoksia koko yrityksen elinkaaren aikana. Tuolloin edeltäjä luopuu ja seuraaja vastaanottaa. Taustalla vaikuttaa usein halu säilyttää yritys perhepiirissä, koska yritys on turvannut perheen toimeentulon ja koska siihen liittyy paljon myös tunteita. Yritys voidaan rinnastaa jopa uniikkiin taideteokseen.

Sosioemotionaalinen hyvinvointi on käsite, joka kuvaa ei-taloudellisia tekijöitä, jotka liittyvät perheyritykseen. Se selittää perheyrityksen merkitystä perheenjäsenille. Gradututkimukseni lähtökohtana toimi tämä käsite ja halusin sen avulla tutkia tätä suurta muutosta, sukupolvenvaihdosta.

Tutkimukseni porautui sukupolvenvaihdoksen aikana koettuihin tunnekokemuksiin ja selitti tunnekokemusten avulla niitä tekijöitä, joita tunteiden taustalla vaikuttavat. Tutkimus käsitteli sekä edeltäjien että seuraajien kokemuksia, koska laaja-alaisempi käsittely auttoi ymmärtämään tunteiden taustoja suuremmassa mittakaavassa.


Vain ymmärtämällä tunteiden taustatekijöitä voimme ymmärtää ilmaantuneita tunteita kattavammin. Tutkimukseni mukaan tunteiden taustalla vaikuttivat muun muassa henkilöiden identiteetin muodostuminen perheyrityksen ympärille, ajatus perheyrityksestä elämäntyönä ja halu säilyttää perhedynastia perhepiirissä. Nämä tekijät vaikuttivat siihen, kuinka eri osapuolet kokivat sukupolvenvaihdoksen. Esimerkiksi edeltäjän ajatus perheyrityksestä elämäntyönä tuo ylpeyden tunnetta seuraajan asettumisesta yrityksen johtotehtäviin, mutta samalla haikeutta, koska edeltäjä on panostanut elämänsä ajan huomattavan paljon yrityksen pyörittämiseen ja tilanne muuttuu, kun vetovastuu vaihtuu.

Tunteet yhtä tärkeitä kuin talous

Tutkimukseni osoittaa, että sukupolvenvaihdokseen liittyy tunteita laidasta laitaan. Tunteiden käsittelyllä ja tunteiden taustatekijöiden ymmärtämisellä voidaan ennaltaehkäistä konfliktien syntymistä. Tutkimukseni osoitti, että perheyrityksen merkitys on erilainen eri sukupolville, minkä ymmärtäminen ja hyväksyminen jo itsessään auttaa työskentelemään kohti yhteistä päämäärää – hyvinvoivaa ja uniikkia perheyritystä.

Tanja Lehto, KTM

Pro gradu: Perheyritys – perheenjäsenten uniikki taideteos. Tutkimus sukupolvenvaihdoksen tunnekokemusten taustatekijöistä
Ohjaaja: Helena Kantanen


Strategic entrepreneurship – a key for business growth

Today, entrepreneurship raises a lot of interest in the society. Government decision makers see it as a vehicle for economic growth. Growth of small companies brings jobs and tax revenues and gives a boost of energy to the economic activity. While entrepreneurship is a solution to many macroeconomic challenges, it also opens up new and exciting opportunities to people who want to create something new.

Interestingly, most new companies that start out small also remain small through the whole lifespan. In fact, it is very rare that a small start-up grows into a large company. One explanation is that the majority of business start-ups are imitations of existing businesses in the matured industries. Another explanation is that start-ups are typically located in local markets, and therefore, their growth potential is limited. Yet one more explanation might be that many start-up entrepreneurs are not at all interested in business growth, instead, other aspects of being an entrepreneur motivate them.

But how about those entrepreneurs, who are growth oriented, what could be done to support their ambitions? Start-ups are agile in detecting and creating new opportunities, but upholding competitiveness is not in their best game.

Despite few in number, there are entrepreneurs who want to grow their businesses. One way to support these entrepreneurs is to guide them into strategic entrepreneurship. The core idea in strategic entrepreneurship is in balancing the competitive advantage seeking and business opportunity creation when making business decisions.

I found in my doctoral thesis that the best way to balance between competitive advantage seeking and business opportunity creation sequentially is to alternate the emphasis on one or the other over time or to create an organization so that different people look into one or the other.

My study shows that there is a great but underutilized potential in the Finnish entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs show great resilience in pursuing renewal even in difficult financial times and show commitment to their business ideas in the face of many challenges they face. There is a great growth potential in the Finnish entrepreneurial field. With support on strategic entrepreneurship, we could see many more growth oriented start-ups and read many more exciting success stories on business growth.

Ville-Veikko Piispanen, D.Sc. (Econ. & Bus. Adm.)


Title of Doctorate thesis

Strategic Entrepreneurship in Small Business Context
Supervisor: Professor Päivi Eriksson

To the unknown and beyond: Appreciative intelligence® in Start-up Companies

A phenomenon such as the Slush ( is a sign that the start-up hype is storming in Finland. Slush is an annual event for start-ups and tech talent to meet with investors, executives and media. It is organized in Helsinki in November, that is when you can get a first hand experience of slush on the streets, and in just a few years it has grown a major start-up event in Finland and in Europe. It is a part of a movement that is taking place all over the world where young educated experts set up businesses instead of looking for positions in established organizations. Slush is the focal point for start-ups and tech talent to meet with top-tier international investors, executives, and media.

The interesting question is why are well educated people ready to jump into an extremely uncertain work environment with well-known fact that most companies will fail and disappear after a couple of years. So what drives people forward to fight against the odds and all that uncertainty? With this questions in mind, I interviewed people who work in start-up companies and asked how they cope with the challenges they face in setting up a new business.

Using a framework of Appreciative Intelligence® introduced by professor Tojo Thatchenkery, George Mason University, USA, I found that the entrepreneurs were able to reframe the uncertainty in the business environment as an opportunity for personal learning and meeting exciting challenges. Also, they were able to see a quick career development as a positive potential in the situation. And finally, they were capable of acting on uncertainty and using it as an energizing and community building shared experience that fueled the entrepreneurs and their teams to make the future potential unfold in actions taken today.

According to professor Thatchenkery, people tend to reframe challenging situations in two contrasting ways – either negatively or positively. I was able to identify a tremendous amount of positive reframing in the ways the entrepreneurs perceived uncertainty in start-up business.

It appears that the start-up score high in Appreciative Intelligence® which helps them make a challenging situation into an exciting opportunity. The good news is that we can all practice Appreciative Intelligence® and put it in use in our own lives and at work.


Tuomas Holma

Thesis: To the Unknown and Beyond: Appreciative Intelligence® in Start-up Companies

Thesis supervisor: Professor Hanna Lehtimäki

To learn more about appreciative intelligence, please visit

How to solve the dilemma in market access delay in new medicine?

An important measure of success of a new drug is markets access delay that measures the length of the time a new medicine is accessible to patients after the R&D process has been completed. In my thesis I found out that the mean market access delay of oral cancer drugs in Finland is 2,36 years and it is becoming even longer with new drugs. Cancer patients and the patient organization regard this to be excessively too long. To many patients, every day is precious.

Patients and patient organization see that money should not be a barrier to the access for drugs that will help them to better fight cancer. However, the cost of new oral cancer medicines tends to be high. Therefore, reimbursement plays a significant part of the market access in making new oral cancer drugs accessible to all patients regardless of a patient’s economic status.

There is a pressing need to improve the process of authorizing and approving new drugs by European Medicines Agency EMA and Pharmaceutical Pricing Board PPB.

At the moment, patients feel that their voices are not heard when making decision concerning the reimbursement status of new drugs. From the patients’ perspective, they themselves are the ones having to experiences the biggest loss in the long market access delays. As noted by a representative of a patient organization, for a patient, it is an absurd situation when it is known that there is a drug that is crucial for the survival of the patient but the patient can’t get the medicine because it is not reimbursed. Due to the delay, the patient passes away.

For giving patients an equal opportunity to access new oral cancer medicines, it is highly important that new oral cancer medicines are included in the Finnish drug reimbursement system in a timely manner. However, identifying the crucial new medicines that should be quickly accessible, is difficult.

A solution may come with the upcoming Comprehensive Cancer Center Finland whose planned role would be to give clinical guidelines and give statements concerning new treatments. Also, starting this year Finland has implemented a risk sharing scheme called conditional reimbursement for allowing a faster access to new innovative drugs. These are very welcomed reforms that will hopefully improve the fast accessibility of new oral cancer therapies. Further research is needed to support shortening the market access of new drugs.


Matti Auvinen


Title of Master’s thesis

Market access of oral cancer drugs in Finland: A patient and patient organization view

Thesis supervisor: Professor Hanna Lehtimäki

Invest in coincidence – make use of serendipity

In a modern interconnected world, you can often hear a phrase: who you know affects what you know. However, if you actually try to illustrate who you know on a piece of paper ­– the task may not be simple. If you only include your closest friends, it is plausible, but what happens when you start to map out your friend’s friends? And how about all your Facebook friends, do you have an idea how they are connected to each other? It is fair to say that the potential reach of our networks is far wider than we have ever realized.

When we apply the thought of connectedness to opportunities e.g. a new job, what appears at first sight as a happy coincidence, may be more than that. It might, in fact, be a result of our connectedness to others, the indirect ties we have through friends and acquaintances.

In my Master’s thesis, I applied network theory in internationalization of innovative business and I found that the source of business opportunities abroad was largely due to indirect ties the case company had in a far reaching business network. In the analysis, I was able to identify particular bridging ties that actually enabled the case company to receive new internationalization opportunities which, probably, wouldn’t have otherwise appeared .

The learning from this is that, in a connected world, viewing coincidences as mere random events may strikingly limit the opportunities which we might be offered in the future. Instead, it is important to create opportunities for coincidences to happen and make use of them with deliberate actions. In my study on a life sciences company, an important source for the coincidental, yet significantly beneficial, opportunities turned out to be connections to the scientific community. As a result of the study, the company started to invest more in these relationships with a new understanding of the potential reach the connections have.

Karri Koistinen

Title of Master’s thesis:

“Role of social capital, networks and serendipity in internationalization of SMEs”

Thesis supervisor:  Professor Hanna Lehtimäki