Alibaba.com, one of the largest global online business-to-business marketplaces, is opening its platform to manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors in the U.S. to help them access the $23.9 trillion global B2B e-commerce market.
Alibaba.com was originally created to connect suppliers in China with buyers in overseas markets, largely those in the U.S. Now, a new program aimed at U.S. SMBs will allow those companies to sell on the platform as well. That newly opened channel, along with a new network of industry partners and a nationwide tour to meet with business owners and teach them about Alibaba.com, is part of a broader push to enable 30 million SMBs in the U.S. to better sell and source by using the site.
“Alibaba aims to empower entrepreneurs and help them succeed on their own terms,” said John Caplan, head of North America B2B at Alibaba Group. “With 10 million active business buyers in over 190 countries and regions, we are reshaping B2B commerce by providing the tools and services needed for U.S. SMB companies to compete and succeed in today’s global marketplace.”
WATCH: Alibaba.com’s Building New Opportunities for US SMBs
Alibaba.com, Alibaba Group’s original business, launched in 1999. The site serves 10 million active buyers on the platform from over 190 countries and regions, as well as about 150,000 sellers.
Enhancing the Sourcing Experience
Alibaba.com has launched a series of new features to support the onboarding and marketing efforts of new U.S. suppliers, also called sellers, on the site. Sellers will get an easy-to-use interface for building and managing a digital store on the platform, CRM and communications tools for customer-relationship management and digital-marketing tools to target likely customers, as well as online payments starting July 25 (although online payments won’t be immediately available to sellers in New York and Nevada at launch). Alibaba.com has also created what it calls a Customer Success team in the U.S. to support SMBs as they join the platform.
U.S. sellers are not the only beneficiaries, however. As more sellers arrive on the platform, buyers get greater choice across a range of categories for their sourcing needs, including both ready-to-ship and customized goods. That will boost the platform’s overall value proposition while also attracting and benefiting more SMBs globally, Alibaba.com said. The site now has an improved its search function, as well, to deliver faster and more-accurate results when buyers are sourcing on the site.
WATCH: Alibaba.com Launches US Seller Program
Evan Gettinger, co-founder of New York-based professional cleaning-products maker Gett Clean, said Alibaba.com was helping his company expand its footprint and reach buyers in new markets. Some of those markets include India, Germany, Poland and countries in Africa.
“We recognized the opportunity to expedite global growth through Alibaba.com early on,” Gettinger said. “With the new combination of platform tools available and the addition of major, name-brand sellers, we expect a faster path to our growth targets.”
An Ecosystem to Support SMBs
To further support the entry of U.S. SMBs on the platform, Alibaba.com said it was building an ecosystem of industry partners to provide the goods and services that these businesses need to succeed in global trade.
The ecosystem consists of “anchor sellers,” such as Office Depot and Robinson Fresh, the produce division of logistics company C.H. Robinson, both of which launched stores on Alibaba.com on Tuesday. The two companies, their name recognition and extensive product inventories will bring increased in traffic to the site, which in turn should serve to drive traffic to smaller sellers as well, Alibaba.com said.
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“We’re proud to expand our strategic collaboration with Alibaba.com,” said Gerry Smith, chief executive officer for Office Depot. “By becoming an anchor seller, we can reach a larger small business audience and provide them with the products and services they need to compete on a global scale.”
In addition to anchor sellers, Alibaba.com has also partnered with software companies and service providers, such as logistics provider ShipStation and jobs search engine Indeed, as well as organizations at the national, regional and local levels to support SMBs in their growth through exclusive offers, discounts and educational content.
B2B ‘Build Ups’
Alibaba.com is launching a national tour of educational and networking events, called Build Ups, to help small- and medium-sized businesses better tap into the global B2B e-commerce opportunity, and to use the platform. The first event was held Tuesday in Brooklyn, while events in Los Angeles and Chicago are planned in the coming week. Additional Build Ups will take place later in the year, supported by local and national business organizations such as SCORE, the largest network of volunteer, expert business mentors in the U.S. chapters, Food Export USA – Northeast and the Food Export Association of the Midwest USA. Alibaba.com will co-producing digital Build Up content with SCORE, as well.
“Small businesses are the engine of the U.S. economy, but they face challenges,” said Ken Yancey, CEO of SCORE. “SCORE and our network of mentors is excited about helping U.S. businesses learn about the huge opportunity in e-commerce at these physical and virtual Build Up workshops available to communities across the U.S.”