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Alibaba.com Leverages Digital Expertise to Ease Remote B2B Relationship Building

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In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, leading e-commerce marketplace Alibaba.com is fostering business connections between global suppliers and buyers from the comfort of their homes.

Alibaba.com research has found that trade shows are typically sellers’ top avenue for finding and connecting with businesses and wholesale buyers. With in-person events currently out of the picture due to travel restrictions, the retail and technology group is stepping in with a digital alternative. As budgets are tighter, the digital trade show format is more cost effective, taking out the expenditures for travel.

“COVID-19 wiped out most of the offline traditional business opportunities like exhibitions and face-to-face business meetings,” said John Caplan, president of Alibaba.com in Europe and North America. “Alibaba.com is helping sellers and buyers to reduce this big loss of offline opportunities by leveraging its digital capability.”

From June 8-28, Alibaba.com is hosting a B2B virtual trade show covering 12 industries and 32 categories, including apparel and accessories. This Online Trade Show platform is part of Alibaba.com’s ongoing evolution of services and toolkits, including newly launched services aimed at helping small- and medium-sized manufacturers and wholesalers navigate the difficulties of the pandemic and thrive in an increasingly digital economy.

During the June Alibaba.com Online Trade Show, more than 5,000 suppliers will be intuitively matched with millions of buyers from around the world via analytics. Wholesalers and manufacturers will present around 6,000 livestreams, with content ranging from product demonstrations to factory tours. Potential buyers will have the chance to ask questions or set up one-on-one video conference meetings. Through a newly launched virtual reality application experience, they can also view products in 360 degrees as if touring a physical showroom. Those who wish to forge a new business relationship with a sale can place orders through the platform.

Aside from facilitating sales, the digital trade show will act as an educational platform.

Alibaba.com will be hosting experiences such as video seminars, recreating the feeling of an in-person event through technology. The agenda includes keynotes from Google, Dun & Bradstreet and Kearney, providing attendees with a top-down view of what’s happening in the industry. “Through rich activities, exhibitors and buyers can easily obtain information on industrial trends, novel technology, and top selling categories to guide business decision making,” said Caplan.

For instance, recent data from Alibaba.com revealed that the COVID-19 crisis has escalated demand for comfortable and functional attire and footwear as consumers spend more time at home. Average daily searches for slide shoes spiked 325 percent over the past three months, while interest in yoga wear more than doubled between February and March.

SMB support

In addition to the global trade show event, Alibaba.com has also unveiled new products and services that are dedicated to helping small businesses advance their efforts to digitize and pivot online amid the current crisis.

U.S.-based buyers on Alibaba.com can now use Alibaba.com Freight to ship their orders. The newly launched platform, powered by digital freight marketplace Freightos, helps businesses simplify arranging their bulk shipments with the ability to instantly compare, book, manage and track ocean and air freight in real time online, effectively modernizing the analog, opaque and historically slow process for arranging cross-border logistics.

In addition, U.S.-based buyers may take advantage of Alibaba.com’s newly launched Payment Terms offering, a financing plan that lets qualified buyers purchase and pay up to 60 days after goods are shipped. SMBs often lack the same credit opportunities afforded to bigger companies, and typically transactions call for full payment upfront. This solution intends to level the playing field for smaller businesses as cash flow is constricted, making them more competitive.

Physical meets digital

Continuing its virtual push in July, Alibaba.com will be hosting a 3D fashion show, which will enable viewers to see garments in motion from every angle. With many fashion weeks currently put on hold, Alibaba.com is looking to digitize the feeling of being at a physical presentation for a trade audience by allowing sellers to promote their collections in creative scenarios.

Alibaba.com customization

By the second half of the year, the e-commerce platform expects to have 10,000 products showcased in 3D format in always-on virtual showrooms. In addition to being able to view more product details, the 3D format can also act as a configurator, enabling potential buyers to play with aspects such as colorways and textiles in real time.

The June trade show and digital exhibitions are just part of Alibaba.com’s push to facilitate connections and transactions among global businesses in the wake of the pandemic. COVID has created an imperative for global businesses to go digital; as a result, transactions on Alibaba.com have grown by more than 85 percent year-on-year.

Alibaba.com sees business-to-business bulk e-commerce ordering as a big growth opportunity for global small- and medium-sized businesses. The global B2B e-commerce market was valued at $23.9 trillion in 2016, compared to just $3.8 trillion in B2C online sales.

“Alibaba.com is committed to reducing the friction in global B2B trade [through] a constant evolution of platform features and services, so people can better connect with one another, do business with one another, and build trust with one another, wherever they are,” Caplan said. “With 21 years of experience in global B2B trade, we are here to help businesses digitize and thrive during, and coming out of, the pandemic.”

Click here to check out Alibaba.com’s online trade show, happening now until June 28.

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