The Role of Websites in Business Internationalization: A Closer Look at Objectives and Strategies

The Role of Websites in Business Internationalization: A Closer Look at Objectives and Strategies

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-9008-9.ch016
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This chapter aims to contribute to a better understanding of the role of websites in business internationalization by exploring how website overall objectives and their coherence with website strategies support website internationalization effectiveness. It provides empirical evidence on the experiences of Portuguese companies shared by 20 managers of large companies and SMEs of various activity sectors. Results show the importance of a clear website strategy (e.g., clear objectives and coherent tactics) for an effective role in internationalization. Findings also confirm that, while many managers are skeptic about the effectiveness of websites as an internationalization touchpoint, namely due to sector characteristics (e.g., type of customers, type of products/services), the website is perceived as an essential tool for reaching, attracting, and involving international customers, supporting other communication instruments such as participating in international fairs and sales force.
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The global pandemic disrupted many businesses and our daily life worldwide. According to Altman & Bastian (2020), people flow suffered an unprecedented decline. In addition, trade and capital flows were also hit hard. Consequently, digital information flow and international data flow soared. Thus, digital channels have become the main lifeline to connect businesses and the world. In this context, the majority of countries are striving towards internationalization of home companies and businesses.

The key factor for internationalization lies in the power of digital channels. In fact, prior to lockdowns, 90% of business decision makers already believed that digital commerce was or would become their company’s most important sales channel within one to three years, and 87% agreed that digital was the future of their company (Forrester Consulting, 2020). Thus, given this promising opportunity for internationalization and the dramatic change in the digital world, it becomes necessary for practitioners and researchers to study the effectiveness of digital touchpoints, such as websites, in international markets.

The importance of websites as an international touchpoint is undeniable. Being widely associated with market globalization, a website is recognized as the most valuable digital asset of any company (Chaffey & Smith, 2017), since it offers the opportunity to create an information hub and an outlet store available to any prospective client with internet access. Without surprise, the role of websites in business internationalization attracts a lot of attention from practitioners, and research on the topic has become increasingly popular.

Despite the interesting insights in extant literature regarding companies’ adoption of websites (e.g., Oliveira & Martins, 2011; Ramayah et al., 2016; Simmons, Armstrong & Durkin, 2008, 2011), managers’ predisposition for e-commerce (e.g., Al-Bakri & Katsioloudes, 2015; Houghton & Winklhofer, 2004; Ocloo et al., 2020; Nasution et al., 2021; Sin & Sin, 2020; Sumiyana & Susilo, 2021; Walker et al., 2016; Xuhua et al., 2019) and the expected impacts of websites on internationalization, especially exports (e.g., Hagsten & Kotnic, 2017; Jean & Kim, 2020; Rivera-Trigueros & Olvera-Lobo, 2021), research on the topic is still sparce in exploring the role of industry specific websites and its customer-centric strategy, and the effects in the company’s internationalization efforts. This chapter aims to fill this gap.

To better understand the role of websites in business internationalization, the chapter has two objectives:

  • 1.

    Explore how website overall objectives (e.g., sell, inform, build relationships, foster brand image) contribute to website internationalization effectiveness (e.g., reaching international prospects, exporting).

  • 2.

    Understand how website strategy (e.g., target audience, content and optimization) contribute to website internationalization effectiveness (e.g., reaching international prospects, exporting).

Building on recent scientific outputs, this research provides empirical evidence on Portuguese companies’ experiences shared by 20 managers of large companies and SMEs of various activity sectors. Overall, the chapter offers both theoretical and empirical contributions to managers and practitioners in general, by highlighting important determinants of website effectiveness for business internationalization.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Prospect: A potential customer for a business, brand, or company.

Search Engine Results Page (SERP): The list of results that is presented to search engine users after entering a particular research query.

Digital Marketing: The adaptation of marketing management and strategy to the digital touchpoints, comprising a particular set of tools and strategies (e.g., social media, e-mail, interactive advertising, websites, search engine optimization, digital marketing planning) in accordance to customers’ needs, preferences and digital behaviors.

Brand Awareness: It measures the familiarity and acknowledgement of a brand by its customers and prospects, helping to determine the percentage of the market that knows the brand and associates it with its products.

Search Engine Optimization: A set of techniques, including on-page activities, that improve the probability of a website page to be highly ranked on SERP.

Website Reach: The total number of persons who visited a website. This is different from website visits, as each person can make multiple visits over time.

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