The world is continuously changing, driven by technological innovations that affect the way we do business and trade. The emergence of e-commerce platforms is positively impacting international trade and domestic markets’ growth: a recent survey conducted by the BlackFriday.com team highlights that 61% of Americans are expected to spend a total of $12 billion on Black Friday this year. In China, Alibaba already broke the single-day sales record this year with more than $39 billion in sales.

New technologies are disrupting the supply chain landscape. Blockchain is enhancing the supply chain transparency of international trade, reducing trade costs and promoting paperless trade, thereby allowing small-scale producers and companies the opportunity to tap into global markets. 3-D printing promises to change the role of multinational enterprises as coordinators of global value chains by inducing the engagement of a wider variety of firms and households. The impact of artificial intelligence drones could revolutionalise the supply and global value chains further.

Advances in trade data and analytics are highlighting new opportunities. In recent years, there has been an emergence of various intelligent trade platforms providing valuable insights through advanced analytic tools – such as International Economics’ TradeInsights. Even satellite data and images are being used today to improve crop production, border management, handling of illegal trade, etc.

Change, however, comes with its challenges and the digital world has not been spared. The most common challenges are infrastructure, trust in digital technologies, skills to succeed in the digital economy, service trade barriers, interoperability of systems, standards, regulatory frameworks, financing, etc.  The myriad of players need to understand the e-commerce sector and the ecosystem and there are a series of factors to consider before venturing into the digital economy sphere, such as platform design, security, key policy changes, Know-Your-Customer (KYC), among others.

Data as the new oil. The more refined it is, the greater the quality and reliability. Immense amounts of trade data are being shared through data platforms and websites. However, sources are often unreliable, or undefined, and using the latter for analysis or deriving conclusions can be misleading. The recommendation is to use trade platforms that pull data from reliable and verified international sources.

The promise of Big Data in the trading world is mammoth. The use of secondary data sources, such as transactional, machine, qualitative, unstructured as well as social media, is changing perspectives. However, there are certain challenges. Collecting data and building data warehouses is costly as certain datasets including those available through trade data platforms are being monetised. Many large private companies are reluctant to share their transactional data in fear of losing their competitive advantage. On the other hand, governments are lagging behind in developing open data platforms in order to share government data to the public. According to the open data barometer, only one-fifth of the datasets owned by the top leading countries is openly available.

Adopting digital technologies to optimise, disrupt and create new business lines. At International Economics, we help companies adopt the right strategic frameworks built on strong, resilient inclusive models to take advantage of this new digital trading environment. Our extensive international experience coupled with our innovative solutions using economic models, data science and qualitative tools have helped governments and companies overcome emerging challenges arising from digitalisation. Our work in e-commerce has helped customers not only retain existing customers but uncovered ways of reaching new customers.  We have built systems helping customers identify the most attractive markets, carry out the in-depth analysis of sectors, as well as discover the export potential of products. The digital era is here, allow us to bring positive change to your organisation!

Paul Baker is the founder and CEO of International Economics Consulting Ltd., based in Mauritius. He is a consultant for various G20 governments and developing countries, an adviser on corporate global strategy to multinationals, and is Visiting Professor at the College of Europe.