Nearly three thousand U.S. entrepreneurs and businesses gather in Detroit this week, looking to learn about the opportunities available to them in the China market.
Alibaba’s Gateway ’17 conference at Detroit’s Cobo Center on June 20-21 will feature presentations and educational breakout sessions aimed at offering small and medium-sized U.S. enterprises and brands insight in how to sell to or source from China in their quest to grow their businesses and go global.
Alibaba Group President Mike Evans spoke with Alizila to kick off the event.
Alizila: Mike, why is Alibaba holding this conference? And why call it Gateway?
Evans: We are here to help small businesses and brands sell to China. We’re hoping to educate small businesses, entrepreneurs and agricultural producers who come to Detroit about the opportunities. And we want them to know that Alibaba can be a gateway to reach Chinese consumers in a way that wasn’t possible before.
Two years ago, our Executive Chairman, Jack Ma, outlined our U.S. strategy of helping American businesses reach the China market. Since then, we’ve helped thousands of brands do just that, but this is only the beginning. Gateway ’17 furthers our commitment to leveling the playing field, making it easy for anyone — U.S.brands, entrepreneurs, small businesses and farmers — to take advantage of the opportunities in China.
Alizila: Can you talk more about those China opportunities?
Evans: China represents the biggest market opportunity for U.S. businesses, farmers, entrepreneurs and brands to grow and succeed by selling goods and products to consumers there. To quantify that, around 500 million consumers –that’s bigger than the entire population of North America — are active on Alibaba’s platforms. Those consumers are into what we call “quality consumption.” They’re upgrading their lifestyles and want high-quality American products, beauty and fashion products, fresh foods, housewares and electronics.
This is good for China and Chinese consumers. It’s good for the U.S. economy, job creation and business growth.
Alizila: How will you know if you’ve pulled off a great conference? What does success look like? You have any metrics for that?
Evans: By one measure, we’re already delighted to say we’re ahead of our own initial expectations. We set out to have 1,000 attendees at this inaugural Gateway conference. We have had 3,000 people register to attend and are effectively sold out. We know there was even more demand, but we were limited by the capacity of the venue.
But it’s not purely a numbers game. We want attendees to leave Detroit understanding the opportunity China presents for them to expand their businesses, to extend their reach into a high-growth market with a tremendous appetite for their products and brands. We want them to know how, through Alibaba’s platforms, they can easily and efficiently reach Chinese consumers.
Alizila: How does doing business with China through Alibaba’s platforms actually work? How does a small business unlock the opportunity you’re talking about?
Evans: We’ll be covering this in-depth during Gateway ’17, but there are a number of solutions U.S. brands, merchants and businesses can tap to access the China consumer market, depending on their size, stage of business development and other factors.
We have built up an infrastructure of commerce to make it easier to do business anywhere, with retail, wholesale and sourcing solutions for small businesses of all sizes to market and sell to Chinese consumers.
Small to medium-sized businesses with little-to-no experience in China can tap into China’s consumer market through Taobao Marketplace — Alibaba’s extensive network of wholesale trade partners. Those distributors provide a one-stop solution to market and sell into China.
Medium to larger-sized brands that have some brand awareness in China can open a “flagship store” in the Tmall Marketplace — the country’s largest third-party platform for both homegrown and international brands and retailers. That store will be a centerpiece of their China-specific branding and sales strategy.
Tmall Marketplace offers a premium shopping experience and showcases top-quality branded merchandise for increasingly sophisticated Chinese consumers. Brands new to the China market may choose to list select products on Alibaba’s owned and operated storefront, which offers an easy and efficient way to test the waters with Chinese consumers.
If you’re looking to source products and find suppliers from China and around the world, Alibaba.com is the leading English-language wholesale marketplace for global grade. There are literally hundreds of millions of products available in over 40 different major categories.
We’ll have breakout segments at Gateway ’17 that focus on each of these different solutions.
Alizila: Do you handle deliveries for the brands that sell on your platforms? How does that work?
Evans: Let me elaborate on the logistics solutions that Alibaba provides. First, there’s our affiliate company Cainiao Network. Cainiao has partnered with about 15 other delivery companies in China, giving us an army of delivery people that numbers two million. That gives us extensive reach in the world’s second-largest economy. Internationally, Cainiao has over 60 international partners and more than 100 warehouses. So, in addition to the delivery network in China, we can help brands ship to 224 countries. And all of that is underpinned by big data. So, our deliveries are faster and more accurate as a result.
There are also individual solutions within Cainiao that merchants can take advantage of. Our consolidated shipping solution brings packages from numerous points of origin into our regional warehouses for grouping and then delivery as a large, single shipment. This boosts efficiencies by streamlining an extremely complex web of orders from Alibaba’s e-commerce platforms. Then, there are bonded warehouses. These warehouses are a government-led initiative in China to support cross-border e-commerce by granting preferential tax and regulatory treatment to the goods shipped through them. In March, the Chinese government again signaled support for this program.
Alizila: What’s happens after Gateway ’17?
Evans: We hope people get great deep dive into China while they are here, as well as the industries relevant to them and the business solutions available from Alibaba. After all, the point of Gateway ’17 is to educate attendees about, and raise awareness of, the China opportunity and Alibaba as the gateway to China.
We will also have business people working with the attendees after the event to continue the relationships that were built here and help attendees to access the China market. If anyone wants to follow up with us after Gateway ’17, they can fill out the contact form on the website, gateway17.com. We will be sure to get in touch with them as well to find the right solution for the business. And, of course, with this being Gateway ’17, around this time next year, it wouldn’t be out of the realm of the possible to see a Gateway ’18, if not other gatherings and events with the same goal in mind of making it easy for U.S. businesses, brands and entprepreneurs to enter the China consumer market.