Data-driven use of cross-border e-commerce platforms and export performance: The mediating role of foreign market knowledge acquisition
Frame of the research: Cross-border e-commerce is gaining popularity as a foreign market entry mode. Specifically, many small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) choose to rely on digital e-commerce platforms (or marketplaces) that provide them with inexpensive and rapid access to a large base of potential foreign customers. The few studies available on this topic have implicitly assumed that SMEs embrace this channel with the sole intent of increasing export sales (i.e., to exploit existing opportunities). This study argues that SMEs can also implement a data-driven approach that uses cross-border e-commerce platforms as inexpensive tools to acquire foreign market knowledge by leveraging the large volume of data available on these digital platforms.
Purpose of the paper: This work proposes and tests a model in which a firm’s exploration-driven use of cross-border e-commerce platforms enhances foreign market knowledge acquisition, which improves both the overall export performance of the firm and the exploitation of foreign opportunities through e-commerce.
Methodology: Partial least squares structural equation modeling was used to estimate the proposed model. Data for analysis were collected from a sample of 110 Italian exporters belonging to the food and beverage industry.
Results: The findings highlighted that the exploration-driven use of cross-border e-commerce platforms had a positive relationship with the export performance of firms. The results also implied that this effect was fully mediated by the level of foreign market knowledge (about customers, competitors, market conditions, business laws and regulations) acquired through the use of cross-border e-commerce platforms.
Research limitations: Only exporters belonging to a specific industry were considered in the empirical analysis. Thus, caution is recommended when generalizing these results.
Practical implications: The findings encourage export managers to embrace cross-border e-commerce platforms for both sales and market research purposes by deploying a data-driven approach to cross-border e-commerce platforms.
Originality of the study: To the authors’ knowledge, this is the first study providing empirical evidence about the effects of using a data-driven approach to cross-border e-commerce platforms.
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