Alibaba.com last week launched three new services in the areas of logistics, payments and online exhibitions to help U.S. B2B businesses continue to trade globally during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Originally founded to connect suppliers in China with overseas buyers, especially those in the U.S., Alibaba.com opened up its platform to U.S. sellers last July, and the country has already become its fastest-growing market, said John Caplan, Alibaba.com’s president of North America and Europe. Since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in the U.S., the platform has stayed committed to supporting small and medium-sized businesses with tools to digitize and gain greater access to the $23.9 trillion global B2B e-commerce market.
“Doing business online is the bridge for American small businesses through this crisis and into the next decade,” said Caplan. “We are accelerating our transformation to get both sellers and buyers quickly set up for success and provide the critical tools and services that are required for growth,” he said, adding that new services provided by the platform include “access to supply and demand, shipping and logistics, and working capital.”
Supporting Business Operations
As brick-and-mortar SMBs grapple with dramatic drops in foot traffic in the wake of nationwide lockdowns, the standard industry practice of requiring buyers to provide full, upfront payments for goods can be what sinks businesses already struggling to stay afloat. To help SMBs maintain a healthy and positive cash flow, Alibaba.com’s new online financing solution allows buyers to pay their invoices up to 60 days after placing an order on the platform.
B.A.A.B.S. Beauty in North Carolina is one business that has already benefitted from the service. According to founder Necia Boston, the beauty brand has become increasingly reliant on selling through Alibaba.com after its physical store shut down during the pandemic. Not only has the online platform helped her business survive, its new financing solution has also given B.A.A.B.S. the support to innovate and grow.
“We typically pay our suppliers upfront, which ties our cash up in inventory costs and keeps us from planning very far ahead and investing in our business,” said Boston. “With Alibaba.com Payment Terms, we’ll be able to keep our costs competitive with larger beauty brands, plan for our future product lines and stock up far in advance of the back-to-school and holiday seasons.”
Alibaba.com also launched a new freight solution designed to digitize and streamline cross-border bulk shipments – a process that is often slow and lacking in transparency.
A collaboration with Freightos, an online logistics marketplace, Alibaba.com Freight is an easy-to-use tool for B2B companies to compare, book, manage and track their ocean and air freight in real time. Buyers can access the all-in-one dashboard during any point of their Alibaba.com user journey or arrange for bulk shipments at checkout.
For business-owners, such as Casey Heim of Wake 10, a manufacturer and seller of wakesurfing and boating equipment, Alibaba.com Freight offers an end-to-end process that makes overseas sourcing and shipping much easier, especially as traditional supply chains have been impacted by the pandemic. According to Heim, his company has been able to continue sourcing materials throughout the health crisis and is even set to launch four new products in the summer.
Creating New Opportunities Online
Aside from offering support in financing and freight, Alibaba.com has also been working to create new business opportunities for SMBs in the U.S., including by hosting a series of category-specific online trade shows.
“The grit, resilience and needs of American small businesses who face extraordinary challenges right now have inspired and motivate us to re-imagine the trade show experience for our customers,” said Caplan, referring to the coronavirus pandemic’s disruptions to offline supplier-and-buyer interactions.
Alibaba.com’s online trade shows will recreate many of the interactive elements of offline exhibitions. Not only will participants be able to interact with other buyers and sellers, they can also enjoy special keynote speeches and informative content – all in the comforts of their own homes.
The digital expos will also make use of various tools and resources to help U.S. manufacturers and wholesalers engage with Alibaba.com’s 10 million buyers worldwide. These tools include livestreaming, which has become an especially effective outreach channel during the pandemic. In early May, Alibaba.com used the online video tool to spotlight Chinese FMCG suppliers. As a result of the livestreamed session, online inquiries directed toward the suppliers increased tenfold in a single afternoon.
Twenty online trade shows are planned for this year, starting with one which focuses on the Supplements and Nutrition category on July 7-10.