E-platform use and exporting in the context of Alibaba: A signaling theory perspective

Abstract

Despite the prominent role played by B2B electronic platforms (E-platforms) in assisting exporters, extant research pays scant attention to how, and under what conditions, exporters can deploy B2B E-platforms to enhance their sales performance. Drawing on signaling theory, we examine how the deployment of E-platforms affects export sales performance via foreign buyer contact. We also explore the moderating roles of institutional environment and export growth strategy. We test our model with a dataset composed of a survey and archival data on Chinese exporters that subscribe to Alibaba.com. The findings indicate that E-platform use positively affects foreign buyer contact and, in turn, export sales performance. This positive effect is even more substantial when exporters originate from regions with less-developed market intermediaries or when the institutional distance between the home and host countries is greater. In contrast, this effect becomes weaker when the level of export market diversification or product diversification is higher.

Résumé

Malgré le rôle de premier plan joué par les plateformes électroniques B2B (plateformes E) pour aider les exportateurs, les recherches existantes accordent peu d’attention à la manière et aux conditions par lesquelles les exportateurs peuvent déployer des plateformes E B2B pour améliorer leurs performances commerciales. En nous appuyant sur la théorie du signal, nous examinons comment le déploiement des plateformes-E affecte les performances des ventes à l’exportation via le contact avec des acheteurs étrangers. Nous explorons également les rôles modérateurs de l’environnement institutionnel et de la stratégie de croissance des exportations. Nous testons notre modèle avec un ensemble de données composé d’une enquête et de données d’archives sur les exportateurs chinois abonnés à Alibaba.com. Les résultats indiquent que l’utilisation de la plateforme E affecte positivement le contact avec les acheteurs étrangers et, par conséquent, les performances des ventes à l’exportation. Cet effet positif est encore plus important lorsque les exportateurs sont originaires de régions où les intermédiaires de marché sont moins développés ou lorsque la distance institutionnelle entre le pays d’origine et le pays d’accueil est plus grande. En revanche, cet effet s’affaiblit lorsque le niveau de diversification des marchés d’exportation ou de diversification des produits est plus élevé.

Resumen

A pesar del destacado papel jugado por las plataformas electrónicas B2B (plataformas electrónicas) en apoyar a los exportadores, la investigación existente ha prestado poca atención a cómo, y bajo que condiciones, los exportadores pueden desplegar las plataformas electrónicas B2B para aumentar el desempeño de sus ventas. Basándonos en la teoría de la señalización, examinamos cómo la utilización de las plataformas electrónicas afecta el desempeño de las ventas de exportación mediante el contacto con compradores extranjeros. También exploramos los roles moderadores del entorno institucional y la estrategia de crecimiento de exportaciones. Probamos nuestro modelo con una base de datos compuesta de una encuesta y datos de archivo sobre los exportadores chinos que se inscribieron a Alibaba.com. Los hallazgos indican que el uso de la plataforma electrónica afecta positivamente el contacto con compradores extranjeros, y a su vez, el desempeño de las ventas de exportación. Este efecto positivo es aún más substancioso cuando los exportadores son originarios de regiones con intermediarios de mercado menos desarrollados. En cambio, este efecto se vuelve más débil cuando el nivel de diversificación del mercado exportador o de diversificación de producto es mayor.

Resumo

Apesar do papel proeminente desempenhado pelas plataformas eletrônicas B2B (E-plataformas) no auxílio a exportadores, pesquisas existentes dão pouca atenção a como e em que condições exportadores podem implantar E-plataformas B2B para melhorar seu desempenho de vendas. Com base na teoria da sinalização, examinamos como a implantação de E-plataformas afeta o desempenho de vendas de exportação por meio do contato com o comprador estrangeiro. Também exploramos os papeis moderadoras do ambiente institucional e da estratégia de crescimento das exportações. Testamos nosso modelo com um conjunto de dados composto por uma pesquisa e dados de arquivo sobre exportadores chineses que assinam Alibaba.com. Os resultados indicam que o uso da E-plataforma afeta positivamente o contato com o comprador estrangeiro e, por sua vez, o desempenho de vendas de exportação. Esse efeito positivo é ainda mais substancial quando exportadores são originários de regiões com menos desenvolvidos intermediários de mercado ou quando a distância institucional entre os países de origem e acolhimento é maior. Em contraste, esse efeito se torna mais fraco quando o nível de diversificação do mercado de exportação ou a diversificação de produtos é maior.

摘要

尽管B2B电子平台(E-平台)在协助出口商方面发挥了显赫作用, 现有研究很少关注出口商如何以及在何种条件下能够部署B2B E-平台以提高其销售业绩。借鉴信号理论, 我们研究了E-平台的部署如何通过外国买家关系来影响出口销售业绩。我们还探讨了制度环境和出口增长策略的调节作用。我们使用由问卷调查和注册阿里巴巴国际网站的中国出口商的档案数据所组成的数据集测试了我们的模型。研究结果表明, E-平台的使用对外国买家关系产生积极影响, 进而对出口销售业绩产生积极影响。当出口商来自市场中介欠发达的地区时, 或者当母国与东道国之间的制度距离较大时, 这种积极影响更加明显。相反, 当出口市场多元化或者产品多元化水平较高时, 这种影响减弱。

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Acknowledgements

The authors gratefully acknowledge helpful and constructive comments received from the anonymous reviewers and the JIBS Editor Professor Costas Katsikeas. Their feedback and suggestions were instrumental in improving the final contribution.

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Accepted by Constantine Katsikeas, Area Editor, 22 October 2020. This article has been with the authors for two revisions.

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Jean, RJ.“., Kim, D., Zhou, K.Z. et al. E-platform use and exporting in the context of Alibaba: A signaling theory perspective. J Int Bus Stud (2021). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41267-020-00396-w

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Keywords

  • B2B E-platform
  • Alibaba
  • signaling theory
  • institutional environments
  • export growth strategy