The business model concept is useful in analysing and communicating the essence of a business, and for predicting the implications of electronic commerce on an existing business. As useful as the concept is, there is a lack of consensus among researchers on the definition of a business model, and on the constructs of the business model.

The aim of this paper is to propose a conceptual framework for business model research that provides a basis for theory development and debate. Without such a conceptual framework business model research will progress in an ad hoc fashion and be directed by the immediate needs of individual researchers.

The financial reporting conceptual framework developed over many years by the accounting profession, is used as a mould for the hierarchically structured, business model conceptual framework that is the subject of this paper. In addition the notion of primacy of concept is used to determine the business model elements and architecture.

It is envisaged that the business model conceptual framework will guide future research and that it will be reviewed and refined, just as the financial reporting conceptual framework has been reviewed and refined over decades.