Data-driven use of cross-border e-commerce platforms and export performance: The mediating role of foreign market knowledge acquisition


  • Fabio Cassia
  • Francesca Magno



foreign market knowledge; platforms; data-driven approach; cross-border e-commerce; export management; export performance


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.


AKTER S., HOSSAIN M.A., LU Q.S., SHAMS S.R. (2021), “Big data-driven strategic orientation in international marketing”, International Marketing Review, vol. 38, n. 5, pp. 927-947.

ANDREWS M., SMITS S.J. (2021), “The Role of Knowledge Management in Balancing Exploration and Exploitation in E-Commerce Firms”, Journal of Organizational Psychology, vol. 21, n. 2, pp. 96-108.

BERTOLI G. (2016), “Editoriale: più marketing per conquistare il mercato agroalimentare statunitense”, Micro & Macro Marketing, vol. 25, n. 1, pp. 3-8.

BERTOLI G. (2017), “Editoriale. L'export digitale dell'Italia e i social media”, Micro and Macro Marketing, vol. 26, n. 3, pp. 379-384.

BERTOLI G., VALDANI E. (2018), Marketing internazionale, Seconda edizione, Egea, Milano.

CASILLAS J.C., BARBERO J.L., SAPIENZA H.J. (2015), “Knowledge acquisition, learning, and the initial pace of internationalization”, International Business Review, vol. 24, n. 1, pp. 102-114.

CASSIA F., MAGNO F. (2021), “Cross-border e-commerce as a foreign market entry mode among SMEs: the relationship between export capabilities and performance”, Review of International Business and Strategy, pp. 1-17.

CAVUSGIL S.T., KNIGHT G. (2015), “The born global firm: An entrepreneurial and capabilities perspective on early and rapid internationalization”, Journal of International Business Studies, vol. 46, n. 1, pp. 3-16.

CHEN J., TOURNOIS N., FU Q. (2020), “Price and its forecasting of Chinese cross-border E-commerce”, Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, vol. 35, n. 10, pp. 1605-1618.

CHEN Y., LUO H., CHEN J., GUO Y. (2022), “Building data-driven dynamic capabilities to arrest knowledge hiding: A knowledge management perspective”, Journal of Business Research, vol. 139, pp. 1138-1154.

CHRISTOFI M., VRONTIS D., CADOGAN J.W. (2021), “Micro-foundational ambidexterity and multinational enterprises: a systematic review and a conceptual framework”, International Business Review, vol. 30, n. 1, pp. 101625.

DENICOLAI S., ZUCCHELLA A., STRANGE R. (2014), “Knowledge assets and firm international performance”, International Business Review, vol. 23, n. 1, pp. 55-62.

DHIR S., DHIR S. (2018), “Role of ambidexterity and learning capability in firm performance: A study of e-commerce industry in India”, VINE Journal of Information and Knowledge Management Systems, vol. 48, n. 4, pp. 517-536.

DIJKSTRA T.K., HENSELER J. (2015), “Consistent partial least squares path modeling”, MIS Quarterly, vol. 39, n. 2, pp. 297-316.

ELIA S., GIUFFRIDA M., MARIANI M.M., BRESCIANI S. (2021), “Resources and digital export: An RBV perspective on the role of digital technologies and capabilities in cross-border e-commerce”, Journal of Business Research, vol. 132, pp. 158-169.

EUROPEAN COMMISSION (2019), “Development of Cross-border E-commerce through Parcel Delivery. Available at: (Accessed: 15 September 2021)”.

FERRARIS A., MAZZOLENI A., DEVALLE A., COUTURIER J. (2019), “Big data analytics capabilities and knowledge management: impact on firm performance”, Management Decision, vol. 57, n. 8, pp. 1923-1936.

FLETCHER M., HARRIS S., RICHEY JR R.G. (2013), “Internationalization knowledge: what, why, where, and when?”, Journal of International Marketing, vol. 21, n. 3, pp. 47-71.

FORNELL C., LARCKER D.F. (1981), “Evaluating structural equation models with unobservable variables and measurement error”, Journal of Marketing Research, vol. 18, n. 1, pp. 39-50.

GHAURI P., STRANGE R., COOKE F.L. (2021), “Research on international business: The new realities”, International Business Review, vol. 30, n. 2, pp. 101794.

GNIZY I. (2019), “Big data and its strategic path to value in international firms”, International Marketing Review, vol. 36, n. 3, pp. 318-341.

GOLDMAN S.P., VAN HERK H., VERHAGEN T., WELTEVREDEN J.W. (2021), “Strategic orientations and digital marketing tactics in cross-border e-commerce: Comparing developed and emerging markets”, International Small Business Journal, vol. 39, n. 4, pp. 350-371.

HAAHTI A., MADUPU V., YAVAS U., BABAKUS E. (2005), “Cooperative strategy, knowledge intensity and export performance of small and medium sized enterprises”, Journal of World Business, vol. 40, n. 2, pp. 124-138.

HAIR J.F., HULT G.T.M., RINGLE C.M., SARSTEDT M. (2017), A Primer on Partial Least Squares Structural Equation Modeling (PLS-SEM), Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA.

HAIR J.F., HULT T.M., RINGLE C., SARSTEDT M., MAGNO F., CASSIA F., SCAFARTO F. (2020), Le equazioni strutturali Partial Least Squares. Introduzione alla PLS-SEM, FrancoAngeli, Milano.

HAIR J.F., RISHER J.J., SARSTEDT M., RINGLE C.M. (2019), “When to use and how to report the results of PLS-SEM”, European Business Review, vol. 31, n. 2, pp. 2-24.

HÅNELL S.M., NORDMAN E.R., TOLSTOY D., ÖZBEK N. (2020), ““It’sa new game out there”: e-commerce in internationalising retail SMEs”, International Marketing Review, vol. 37, n. 3, pp. 515-531.

HE Z.L., WONG P.K. (2004), “Exploration vs. exploitation: An empirical test of the ambidexterity hypothesis”, Organization Science, vol. 15, n. 4, pp. 481-494.

HENSELER J., RINGLE C.M., SARSTEDT M. (2015), “A New Criterion for Assessing Discriminant Validity in Variance-based Structural Equation Modeling”, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, vol. 43, n. 1, pp. 115-135.

ITALIAN TRADE AGENCY (2021), Rapporto e-commerce 2021: le opportunità per il Made in Italy. Available at: (Accessed: 20 November 2021).

JOHANSON J., VAHLNE J.E. (1977), “The internationalization process of the firm-a model of knowledge development and increasing foreign market commitments”, Journal of International Business Studies, vol. 8, n. 1, pp. 23-32.

JOHANSON J., WIEDERSHEIM-PAUL F. (1975), “The internationalization of the firm: Four Swedish cases”, Journal of Management Studies, vol. 12, n. 3, pp. 305-322.

KATSIKEAS C., LEONIDOU L., ZERITI A. (2020), “Revisiting international marketing strategy in a digital era: Opportunities, challenges, and research directions”, International Marketing Review, vol. 37, n. 3, pp. 405-424.

LESTARI S.D., MUHDALIHA E., PUTRA A.H.P.K. (2020), “E-commerce performance based on knowledge management and organizational innovativeness”, Journal of Distribution Science, vol. 18, n. 2, pp. 49-58.

LISBOA A., SKARMEAS D., LAGES C. (2013), “Export market exploitation and exploration and performance: Linear, moderated, complementary and non-linear effects”, International Marketing Review, vol. 30, n. 3, pp. 211-230.

MADSEN T.K., MOEN Ø. (2018), “Managerial assessments of export performance: What do they reflect?”, International Business Review, vol. 27, n. 2, pp. 380-388.

MAGNANI G., ZUCCHELLA A. (2020), “A model of entrepreneurial internationalisation in uncertain foreign environments: Smaller firms and the global niche strategy”, Sinergie Italian Journal of Management, vol. 38, n. 3, pp. 23-50.

MAINOLFI G., MARINO V. (2020), “Destination beliefs, event satisfaction and post-visit product receptivity in event marketing. Results from a tourism experience”, Journal of Business Research, vol. 116, pp. 699-710.

MATARAZZO M., PENCO L., PROFUMO G. (2020a), “How is digital transformation changing business models and internationalisation in Made in Italy SMEs?”, Sinergie Italian Journal of Management, vol. 38, n. 3, pp. 89-107.

MATARAZZO M., PENCO L., RAITH M. (2020b), “Growth Strategies & Internationalization for SMEs: an introduction to the special issue”, Sinergie Italian Journal of Management, vol. 38, n. 3, pp. 15-19.

MORETTA TARTAGLIONE A. (2018), Le capacità dinamiche nei processi di internazionalizzazione delle PMI: Profili teorici ed evidenze empiriche, FrancoAngeli, Milano.

OVIATT B.M., MCDOUGALL P.P. (1994), “Toward a theory of international new ventures”, Journal of international Business Studies, vol. 25, n. 1, pp. 45-64.

QI X., CHAN J.H., HU J., LI Y. (2020), “Motivations for selecting cross-border e-commerce as a foreign market entry mode”, Industrial Marketing Management, vol. 89, pp. 50-60.

SAMIEE S. (2020), “International marketing and the internet: a research overview and the path forward”, International Marketing Review, vol. 37, n. 3, pp. 425-436.

SHMUELI G., SARSTEDT M., HAIR J.F., CHEAH J.H., TING H., VAITHILINGAM S., RINGLE C.M. (2019), “Predictive model assessment in PLS-SEM: guidelines for using PLSpredict”, European Journal of Marketing, vol. 53, n. 11, pp. 2322-2347.

SINKOVICS N., SINKOVICS R.R., JEAN R.J.B. (2013), “The internet as an alternative path to internationalization?”, International Marketing Review, vol. 30, n. 2, pp. 130-155.

SOUSA C.M., MARTÍNEZ‐LÓPEZ F.J., COELHO F. (2008), “The determinants of export performance: A review of the research in the literature between 1998 and 2005”, International Journal of Management Reviews, vol. 10, n. 4, pp. 343-374.

STOIAN M.C., RIALP A., RIALP J. (2011), “Export performance under the microscope: A glance through Spanish lenses”, International Business Review, vol. 20, n. 2, pp. 117-135.

TOLSTOY D., NORDMAN E.R., HÅNELL S.M., ÖZBEK N. (2021), “The development of international e-commerce in retail SMEs: An effectuation perspective”, Journal of World Business, vol. 56, n. 3, pp. 101165.

TROILO G., DE LUCA L.M., GUENZI P. (2017), “Linking data‐rich environments with service innovation in incumbent firms: A conceptual framework and research propositions”, Journal of Product Innovation Management, vol. 34, n. 5, pp. 617-639.

UNCTAD (2021), “Estimates of global e-commerce 2019 and preliminary assessment of covid-19 impact on online retail 2020”, UNCTAD Technical Notes on ICT for Development, n. 18, pp. 1-12.

VOSS G.B., VOSS Z.G. (2013), “Strategic ambidexterity in small and medium-sized enterprises: Implementing exploration and exploitation in product and market domains”, Organization Science, vol. 24, n. 5, pp. 1459-1477.

WANG Y., JIA F., SCHOENHERR T., GONG Y., CHEN L. (2020), “Cross-border e-commerce firms as supply chain integrators: The management of three flows”, Industrial Marketing Management, vol. 89, pp. 72-88.

WATSON IV G.F., WEAVEN S., PERKINS H., SARDANA D., PALMATIER R.W. (2018), “International market entry strategies: Relational, digital, and hybrid approaches”, Journal of International Marketing, vol. 26, n. 1, pp. 30-60.

YAN J., TSINOPOULOS C., XIONG Y. (2021), “Unpacking the impact of innovation ambidexterity on export performance: Microfoundations and infrastructure investment”, International Business Review, vol. 30, n. 1, pp. 101766.

ZAHOOR N., AL-TABBAA O. (2021), “Post-entry internationalization speed of SMEs: The role of relational mechanisms and foreign market knowledge”, International Business Review, vol. 30, n. 1, pp. 101761.

ZHAO X. (2018), “A Study on the Applications of Big Data in Cross-border E-commerce”, 2018 IEEE 15th International Conference on e-Business Engineering (ICEBE), pp. 280-284.

ZHOU L. (2007), “The effects of entrepreneurial proclivity and foreign market knowledge on early internationalization”, Journal of World Business, vol. 42, n. 3, pp. 281-293.

ZHOU L., XU S.R., XU H., BARNES B.R. (2020), “Unleashing the dynamics of product-market ambidexterity in the pursuit of international opportunities: Insights from emerging market firms”, International Business Review, vol. 29, n. 6, pp. 101614.

ZOU S., TAYLOR C.R., OSLAND G. E. (1998), “The EXPERF scale: a cross-national generalized export performance measure”, Journal of International Marketing, vol. 6, n. 3, pp. 37-58.

ZUCCHELLA A. (2021), “International entrepreneurship and the internationalization phenomenon: taking stock, looking ahead”, International Business Review, vol. 30, n. 2, pp. 101800.