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A Virtual Marketplace for Global Discovery, Logistics and Speed to Market

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COVID-19 recovery is on the horizon but the pandemic's impact on sustainability, retail, product development and consumer buying patterns means the denim industry must evolve. Join Rivet on April 20th at 11 am ET for the COVID, One Year Later roundtable.

Consumers are ready to shop again, and that means retailers and e-tailer buyers need to discover and stock up on the latest trends.

Already in the U.S. alone, spending on clothing and footwear increased 8 percent in January 2021 from the month prior, following three straight months of decline, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. And even if buyers are still working with their current suppliers, there’s a great post-pandemic urgency to explore new vendor partners and open new lines of discovery—not always easy when most international travel has been halted.

This is where a virtual marketplace is crucial. While some trade events have attempted to pivot to digital formats during the pandemic, online B2B marketplace Alibaba.com has always been a major connector in this virtual space. Its March Expo 2021—an annual online trade event connecting millions of buyers and suppliers around the world in 190+ countries and regions—offers solutions for a changing business world. The event features more than 40 major product categories, including apparel, accessories and textiles, plus customizable and ready-to-ship options for buyers’ increasing immediate needs. There are also thousands of products and SKUs launched just for March Expo, and all available with just a few computer clicks.

“Our saying is global buy, global sell,” said Alibaba.com senior products expert James Spon-Smith. “And we want to make it easier for small businesses to do global trade everywhere—without having to travel.”

As one can imagine, a global B2B marketplace like Alibaba.com is sitting on a tremendous treasure trove of data, which it makes available to its attendees to further their businesses. For example, the company releases more than 6,000 data-driven top-ranking lists, which buyers can scroll through to find top-selling products most relevant to their business.

“We make available to our customers industry trends and insights, especially on apparel and accessories and textiles,” said Spon-Smith. “This includes things like pricing industry trends, marketing capabilities, performance metrics, and we package those for our business buyers, and also, on the back end, our global sellers.”

To further facilitate search and help users make the most of the data, Alibaba.com uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to organize all the products and SKUs found on the platform so buyers only see what is most relevant to them.

But connecting with suppliers and spending open-to-buy budgets is only half the battle. As many buyers experienced first-hand during the pandemic, getting global merchandise into the U.S. can often be a logistical challenge, one that can be especially intimidating for small-to-medium sized businesses. Alibaba.com helps to make it all run smoothly.

“Especially in the past year, two of the biggest challenges for our buyers have been logistics clearance and speed to market,” said Spon-Smith. “We have a number of services that help our buyers to overcome those challenges, and during March Expo, we offer additional benefits on top of the benefits already in place on the Alibaba.com platform.” These include discounts, cash back, guaranteed delivery, paid duties, express delivery to over 200 countries, some free customs inquiry services and more.

Just as buyers are looking to broaden their horizons, so are global suppliers. One category that Alibaba.com is expanding is health and wellness, and Harvest SPF, a supplier in its carefully vetted Elite Partner Event (EPE) program and manufacturer of copper-infused textiles, has seen great success with its health benefits and anti-microbial qualities.

“With our unique patented technology, we infuse the copper ions in different kinds of synthetic or natural fiber materials like nylon polyester or cotton, getting a range of practical clothing, accessories and homeware,” said Joy Xu, Harvest SPF general manager. “We developed copper-infused T-shirts, boxer shorts, socks you can wear for days or weeks, and copper-infused jeans suitable for people who travel a lot.”

As a small company based in Asia, Harvest SPF does 100 percent of its global business on Alibaba.com, attracting more than 300 new clients annually and dealing with more than 1,000 orders.

“We’ve never imagined that as a small company, we can grow up this fast within just a couple of years with Alibaba.com’s support,” said Xu.

Click the image above to watch the video, where Spon-Smith and Xu further explain how a virtual marketplace connects buyers and sellers in a world where business never slows down.

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