Special Issue of the Journal of International Management


The Impact of Digital Technologies on Firms’ International Strategies


Guest Co-Editors:

Roger Strange (University of Sussex, UK, [log in to unmask])

Maria Tereza Leme Fleury (FGV SP, Brazil, [log in to unmask])

Liang Chen (University of Melbourne, Australia, [log in to unmask])


Supervising Editor:

Seung-Hyun Lee (University of Texas at Dallas, USA)


Deadline for submission: January 31, 2021



Digital technologies and their applications have been dramatically transforming the world economy and global businesses (UNCTAD, 2017). As noted by scholars and business leaders, it seems the shifting forces and forms of globalization, rather than de-globalization alone, that characterizes todays’ international business (McKinsey, 2014; Strange, 2019). Recently, international business (IB) scholars have drawn significant attention to digital-native firmsthose born in the contemporary Internet age and offering value propositions based primarily on digital technologiesand their internationalization (Banalieva & Dhanaraj, 2019; Brouthers, Geisser, & Rothlauf, 2016; Chen, Shaheer, Yi, & Li, 2019; Coviello, Kano, & Liesch, 2017; Li, Chen, Yi, Mao, & Liao, 2019; Nambisan, Zahra, & Luo, 2019; Shaheer & Li, 2018).


This special issue is intended to investigate the phenomena and mechanisms regarding how digital technologies influence traditional firms’ international strategies. As digital technologies infiltrate almost every sector (Alcácer, Cantwell, & Piscitello, 2016), traditional firms are facing mounting pressures from digital-native firms which could emanate from anywhere in the world. Rising to the challenge requires, on the part of traditional firms, sometimes painstaking transition to new business logics and value propositions, e.g. the Internet of Things, as well as to digitized business processes, including artificial intelligence (AI), robotic automation, cloud computing, big data analytics and additive manufacturing (Hannibal & Knight, 2018; Strange & Zucchella, 2017). While technology may be necessary to enable digital transformation, it is hardly sufficient without the matching organizational changes (Kapoor & Lee, 2013). But, with challenges also come opportunities. As coordination and communication costs continue to decrease, orchestrating geographically dispersed operations lends rising advantages to digitally empowered multinational enterprises (MNEs), and may consolidate their position as the hub of modern international business (Chen & Kamal, 2016).


By lowering the costs of communication and transactions, digitization opens up new possibilities for traditional firms venturing abroad. With digital infrastructures in place like mobile devices, Wi-Fi networks and online payment systems, search costs and transaction costs between far-flung firms and customers are diminished to the extent that even microenterprises and individual sellers can enjoy the advantages of global span from inception. An explosive myriad of traditional firms, particularly small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), are engaged in international business to serve niche yet global markets without attaining the minimum scale once required. Platform-based marketing channels allow for more substantive and timely interactions between firms and their customers. As a result, traditional firms are required to foster new capabilities more suited to digital strategies. For example, the success of small manufacturers in B2B marketplaces is increasingly a function of their online marketing capability, flexible manufacturing capability and content management capability (Wang & Cavusoglu, 2015).


Deepening digitization is forcing established MNEs across all industries to rethink their operations and organization, and to become more customer-centric. Traditional manufacturing capabilities are recombined with digital components to offer renewed value propositions, often based on sophisticated data analytics. Technologies such as Internet of Things help international coordinators enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of logistics, and precisely track operations and goods transits along the global value chain. Product modularity gives firms the opportunity to coordinate culturally-distant co-specialized partners without investing in relational governance (Lew, Sinkovics, Yamin, & Khan, 2016). Service firms, such as those in the tourism sector, are particularly conditioned by online user-generated reviews and ratings. The ability to design products and business models in ways that harness the power of social media and opinion leadership may be a crucial capability for firms in some traditional industries (Aral & Walker, 2011; Susarla, Oh, & Tan, 2016).


On the other hand, digitization also poses unprecedented challenges to established MNEs in a several aspects. First, some received logics about foreign expansion may no longer be relevant. For example, new manufacturing technologies such as 3D printing may render unnecessary the vertically fragmented, globally dispersed value chain that characterizes modern MNEs (Laplume, Petersen, & Pearce, 2016). As design can be digitally transmitted, intermediate goods may be simply “printed” where they are needed, rather than shipped from one plant to another via international trade. One implication is that location decisions about the final stage production would be driven by proximity to end customers, rather than labor cost. Second, technological architecture and modularity help further reduce vertical and horizontal asset specificity, creating fluid industry boundaries across which start-ups can disrupt traditional sectors and create fast-changing competitive landscapes (Nambisan, 2017). Third, digitization has important implications for the organizing of the MNE. New approaches are required to take advantage of communication technologies for the ease of knowledge transfer within the MNE and beyond. Internal digital platforms and electronic HR management are also reconfiguring the way in which stakeholders, business units, teams and employees of the MNE interact with one another. The extent to which they are implemented in concert with the redesign of organizational procedures determines the ease of knowledge transfer across the MNE network.


Aims and Scope

This special issue is interested in research that examines the digital transformation of traditional firms in the global context. We welcome theoretical papers as well as empirical papers across a variety of methodologies, such as longitudinal case studies, survey, secondary analysis and simulation. We particularly welcome multidisciplinary research that draws on insights from a broad range of disciplines, including strategy, innovation, information systems and marketing. We also encourage submissions that investigate the implications for global businesses of contemporary digital phenomena such as AI, IoT, automation, 3D printing, robotics, big data, blockchain, platform ecosystems, and clout computing. Possible topics and research questions include, but not limited to:



Workshop and Symposium

To help authors refine their papers, we plan to organize a paper development workshop at the European Academy of International Business 2020 conference and the Academy of International Business 2021 conference. We also intend to have a symposium at a major conference in 2022 for the accepted papers in order to boost their visibility and impact.


About the Guest Co-Editors

Roger Strange is Professor of International Business in the University of Sussex Business School since September 2009. He was previously Professor of International Business at King’s College London, where he was Head of Department from 1990 to 1995. Roger is a former President of the European International Business Academy (EIBA) and was the UK National Representative on the EIBA Board from 2009 to 2017. He is currently a Visiting Professor at the University of Pavia (Italy). Roger is an Associate Editor of the International Business Review, a Senior Editor of the Asia Pacific Journal of Management, and on the Editorial Boards of the Global Strategy Journal, the Asia Pacific Business Review, and the Journal of Management & Governance. Roger is the author/editor of twelve books, and over eighty journal articles and book chapters.


Maria Tereza Leme Fleury is Full Professor in the area of International Strategy and Director of FGV SP. She was Dean of FGV EAESP - School of Administration of São Paulo at the Getulio Vargas Foundation, during 2008-2015. She is Vice-President and Fellow of the Academy of International Business (AIB). She is a Senior Professor at FEA/USP and former Dean e from 1998 to 2006. She was a Visiting Scholar at the IFM (University of Cambridge), Visiting Professor at ESSEC (France) and Visiting Researcher at IDS (University of Sussex) and IDE (Japan). She is a member of board of Instituto de Empresas Madrid, Center for China Latin America Management Studies (Tsinghua University), Columbia Global Center Latin America (Columbia University). Maria Tereza is the author of twelve books and over ninety journal articles published.

Liang Chen is Senior Lecturer in Management at the Department of Management and Marketing, The University of Melbourne, Australia. He received his Ph.D. from the Centre for International Business at the University of Leeds. His recent research examines distinct phenomena in the digital economy, including design iteration, user-led internationalization, ecosystem complexity, product modularity, among others. He is particularly interested in platform ecosystems as a new organising structure. Liang’s empirical work on the internationalization of platform businesses is published in the Journal of International Business Studies. His perspective paper on ecosystem-specific advantages appears recently in the JIBS 50th anniversary special issue. His other work has been published in GSJ, JWB, JBE, JIM, IBR, among others.





Alcácer, J., Cantwell, J., & Piscitello, L. 2016. Internationalization in the information age: A new era for places, firms, and international business networks? Journal of International Business Studies, 47(5): 499-512.

Aral, S., & Walker, D. 2011. Creating social contagion through viral product design: A randomized trial of peer influence in networks. Management Science, 57(9): 1623-1639.

Banalieva, E. R., & Dhanaraj, C. 2019. Internalization theory for the digital economy. Journal of International Business Studies, 50(8): 1372-1387.

Brouthers, K. D., Geisser, K. D., & Rothlauf, F. 2016. Explaining the internationalization of ibusiness firms. Journal of International Business Studies, 47(5): 513-534.

Chen, L., Shaheer, N., Yi, J., & Li, S. 2019. The international penetration of ibusiness firms: Network effects, liabilities of outsidership and country clout. Journal of International Business Studies, 50(2): 172-192.

Chen, W., & Kamal, F. 2016. The impact of information and communication technology adoption on multinational firm boundary decisions. Journal of International Business Studies, 47(5): 563-576.

Coviello, N., Kano, L., & Liesch, P. W. 2017. Adapting the Uppsala model to a modern world: Macro-context and microfoundations. Journal of International Business Studies, 48(9): 1151-1164.

Hannibal, M., & Knight, G. 2018. Additive manufacturing and the global factory: Disruptive technologies and the location of international business. International Business Review, 27(6): 1116-1127.

Kapoor, R., & Lee, J. M. 2013. Coordinating and competing in ecosystems: How organizational forms shape new technology investments. Strategic Management Journal, 34(3): 274-296.

Laplume, A. O., Petersen, B., & Pearce, J. M. 2016. Global value chains from a 3D printing perspective. Journal of International Business Studies, 47(5): 595-609.

Lew, Y. K., Sinkovics, R. R., Yamin, M., & Khan, Z. 2016. Trans-specialization understanding in international technology alliances: The influence of cultural distance. Journal of International Business Studies, 47(5): 577-594.

Li, J., Chen, L., Yi, J., Mao, J., & Liao, J. 2019. Ecosystem-specific advantage in international digital commerce. Journal of International Business Studies, 50(9): 1448-1463.

McKinsey. 2014. Global flows in a digital age: How trade, finance, people, and data connect the world economy. Mckinsey Global Institute.

Nambisan, S. 2017. Digital entrepreneurship: Toward a digital technology perspective of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 41(6): 1029-1055.

Nambisan, S., Zahra, S. A., & Luo, Y. 2019. Global platforms and ecosystems: Implications for international business theories. Journal of International Business Studies, 50(9): 1464-1486.

Shaheer, N. A., & Li, S. 2018. The CAGE around cyberspace? How digital innovations internationalize in a virtual world. Journal of Business Venturing, in press.

Strange, R. 2019. Whither globalization? Journal of International Management, in press.

Strange, R., & Zucchella, A. 2017. Industry 4.0, global value chains and international business. Multinational Business Review, 25(3): 174-184.

Susarla, A., Oh, J.-H., & Tan, Y. 2016. Influentials, imitables, or susceptibles? Virality and word-of-mouth conversations in online social networks. Journal of Management Information Systems, 33(1): 139-170.

UNCTAD. 2017. World Investment Report 2017: Investment and the Digital Economy. New York and Geneva: United Nations.

Wang, S., & Cavusoglu, H. 2015. Small and medium sized manufacturer performance on third party B2B electronic marketplaces: The role of enabling and IT capabilities. Decision Support Systems, 79(C): 184-194.


Additional references

Cennamo, C. & Santalo, J. (2013). ‘Platform competition: strategic trade‐offs in platform markets.’ Strategic Management Journal, 34(11): 1331-1350.

Flyverboom, M., Deibert, R. & Matten, D. (2019). ‘The governance of digital technology, big data, and the internet: new roles and responsibilities for business.’ Business & Society, 58(1): 3-19.

Gouvea, R., Linton, J.D., Montoya, M., & Walsh, S. T. (2012). ‘Emerging technologies and ethics: a race-to-the-bottom or the top?’ Journal of Business Ethics, 109(4): 553-567.

Ketels, C., Bhattacharya, A. & Satar, L. (2019). Global trade goes digital. BCG Henderson Institute.

Llewellyn D.W. Thomas, L.D.W., Autio, E. & Gann, D.M. (2014). ‘Architectural leverage: putting platforms in context.’ Academy of Management Perspectives, 28(2):

Lund, S., Manyika, J., Woetzel, J., Bughin, J., Krishnan, M., Seong, J. & Muir, M. (2019). Globalization in transition: the future of trade and value chains. McKinsey Global Institute.

Stallkamp, M. & Schotter, A.P.J. (2019). ‘Platforms without borders? The international strategies of digital platform firms.’ Global Strategy Journal, available online.

Stallkamp, M. & Schotter, A.P.J. (2019). ‘How ‘flat’ is the digital world, really? Evidence on the corporate globalization of digital firms.’ Academy of Management Proceedings, 1.

Strange, R. (2020). ‘Whither globalization?’ Journal of International Management, available online

Zanfei, A., Coveri, A. & Pianta, M. (2019). ‘FDI patterns and global value chains in the digital economy.’ University of Urbino, Department of Economics, Society and Politics, Working Paper WP-EMS # 2019/03.

Zeng, J., Khan, Z. & De Silva, M. (2019). ‘The emergence of multi-sided platform MNEs: internalization theory and networks.’ International Business Review, 28(6).



Liang Chen | Senior Lecturer in Management

Department of Management and Marketing | Faculty of Business and Economics

Level 10, The Spot, 198 Berkeley Street

The University of Melbourne, Victoria 3010 Australia

T: +61 3 8344 2773 E: [log in to unmask] | |


I acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land on which I work, and pay my respects to the Elders, past and present.



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