Ecosystem-specific advantages in international digital commerce

  • Jiatao Li
  • Liang Chen
  • Jingtao YiEmail author
  • Jiye Mao
  • Jianwen Liao


We consider the applicability to digital platforms of extant international business scholarship. The organization of digital platforms has been seen to such an extent as predicated upon the bundling of external resources for collective value creation that their expansion may follow the logic of externalization. We further that literature contrasting the governance of network multinationals with that of platform-centric ecosystems. Building on and extending the theory of the ecosystem, we propose the concept of ecosystem-specific advantages. We identify costs and difficulties in the transfer of such advantages to new markets, emphasizing in particular the idea of bottlenecks. We then propose a framework that can be applied to future research on digital platforms, focusing on the users, suppliers of complementary products, and platform firms. We also call for research on the dynamic process of creating, transferring, and upgrading ecosystem-specific advantages.


digital platforms platform ecosystems ecosystem-specific advantages Internet commerce 


Nous considérons l’applicabilité des savoirs existants en international business aux plateformes numériques. Dans une certaine mesure, il a été considéré pour l’organisation des plateformes numériques - comme cela est prévu par le regroupement de ressources externes pour la création collective de valeur - que leur expansion peut suivre la logique de l’externalisation. Nous poursuivons dans la même veine en comparant la gouvernance des réseaux de multinationales à celle des écosystèmes centrés sur les plateformes. En nous appuyant sur la théorie des écosystèmes et en l’élargissant, nous proposons le concept d’avantages spécifiques aux écosystèmes. Nous identifions les coûts et les difficultés dans le transfert de ces avantages vers de nouveaux marchés en insistant en particulier sur l’idée de goulots d’étranglement. Nous proposons ensuite un cadre qui pourra être appliqué aux recherches futures sur les plateformes numériques, en mettant l’accent sur les utilisateurs, les fournisseurs de produits complémentaires et les firmes gérant les plateformes. Nous invitons également à développer la recherche sur le processus dynamique de création, de transfert et d’amélioration des avantages spécifiques aux écosystèmes.


Consideramos la aplicabilidad de las investigación existente en negocios internaciones a las plataformas digitales. La organización de las plataformas digitales ha sido atribuida en cierta medida a la agrupación de recursos externos para la creación de valor colectivo en su expansión y puede seguir la lógica de externalización. Avanzamos la literatura contrastando la gobernanza de las multinacionales de red con esos ecosistemas centrados en plataformas. Basados en la teoría existente de ecosistema, proponemos el concepto de las ventajas de los ecosistemas. Identificamos costos y dificultades en la transferencia de estas ventajas a los nuevos mercados enfatizando en particular la idea de cuello de botella. Proponemos un marco que puede ser aplicado a la investigación futura en plataformas digitales, enfocada en los usuarios, proveedores de productos complementarios, y empresas plataforma. También pedimos que se investigue el proceso dinámico de creación, transferencia y actualización de ventajas especificas del ecosistema.


Consideramos a aplicabilidade de existentes pesquisas em negócios internacionais a plataformas digitais. A organização de plataformas digitais tem sido vista até certo ponto tão baseada no agrupamento de recursos externos para criação de valor coletivo que sua expansão pode seguir a lógica da externalização. Ampliamos essa literatura contrastando a governança de multinacionais de rede com a de ecossistemas centrados em plataformas. Com base e ampliando a teoria do ecossistema, propomos o conceito de vantagens específicas do ecossistema. Identificamos custos e dificuldades na transferência de tais vantagens para novos mercados, enfatizando em particular a ideia de gargalos. Em seguida, propomos um modelo que pode ser aplicado a futuras pesquisas em plataformas digitais, com foco nos usuários, fornecedores de produtos complementares e empresas de plataforma. Também convidamos pesquisas sobre o processo dinâmico de criação, transferência e atualização de vantagens específicas do ecossistema.


我们探讨现有国际商务理论对于数字平台的适用性。数字平台组织在很大程度上被认为是基于外部资源整合的价值共创, 因而它们的扩张可能遵循了外部化逻辑。我们通过对比网络跨国公司的治理和以平台为中心的生态系统的治理来推进文献。基于并扩展生态系统理论, 我们提出了生态系统特定优势的概念。我们探讨将这些优势转移到新市场的成本与困难, 特别是瓶颈问题。我们然后提出了一个框架, 可应用于未来的数字平台研究, 重点关注用户、互补产品供应商以及平台公司。我们还呼吁对生态系统特定竞争优势的创建、转移和升级的动态过程进行研究。



We thank Alain Verbeke, Editor-in-chief of JIBS, for his guidance and detailed suggestions. We thank the industry experts and corporate executives who shared their insights in our interviews, and comments from participants at the 2018 AOM specialized conference on big data and managing in a digital economy at the University of Surrey, and the 2018 SMS annual conference in Paris. The research is supported in part by the Research Grants Council of Hong Kong (HKUST#16505817) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 71873136). Any errors remain our own.


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© Academy of International Business 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jiatao Li
    • 1
  • Liang Chen
    • 2
  • Jingtao Yi
    • 3
    Email author
  • Jiye Mao
    • 3
  • Jianwen Liao
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of ManagementHong Kong University of Science and TechnologyClear Water BayHong Kong
  2. 2.Department of Management and MarketingUniversity of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia
  3. 3.Renmin Business SchoolRenmin University of ChinaBeijingChina
  4. 4.JD.comBeijingChina

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