Alibaba unveils B2B initiative for US SMBs, as more look for online trade

Some 72% of US small and midsize businesses expect their online B2B revenue to climb, while cross-border sales account for 17% of these companies' B2B volume, says Alibaba, which has introduced a weekly update to highlight new offerings for this sector.

Alibaba.com has introduced an initiative that will feature weekly offerings for small and midsize businesses (SMBs) in the US that are keen to tap the lucrative business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce market. With a potential $23.9 trillion up for grabs, the Chinese e-commerce giant says 72% of US SMBs expect their online B2B revenue to increase. 

In addition, 46% of these companies expected their online B2B businesses to grow in volume, with 27% anticipating an increase of at least 25%, Alibaba said Tuesday, citing findings from a survey it commissioned. Conducted last month by research firm Lucid, the survey polled 5,000 SMBs in the US that operated B2B business.    

Some 57% of respondents had hired employees to facilitate their online B2B trade, with eight in 10 looking to hire at least one employee to support their online activities. 

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According to the study, 90% of SMBs in the country conducted at least some of their B2B transactions and sourcing online, with 59% citing the ability to reach more customers as a key benefit from selling online. Another 47% pointed to the ability to find customers more quickly, while 44% said such activities fuelled profit margins. 

In addition, 59% of respondents already conducted some cross-border trade, which accounted for an average 17% of their overall business. Amongst those that had turned to cross-border trade, half cited more customers and options of suppliers as a key benefit, while 47% pointed to increased revenue. Another 41% said it helped drive up profit margins.

Some 45% cited Canada and Mexico as the top markets they were most interested for B2B trade, while 21% pointed to Europe. Another 17% highlighted China, Japan, and South Korea. 

With the growing focus on online B2B activities, Alibaba said it would introduce new features on a weekly basis aimed at helping US SMBs tap this market. Branded under a new initiative called B2B Tuesday, the Chinese e-commerce giant said it would feature B2B case studies, events, new offerings on its B2B platform, as well as educational content and other insights and resources.

Alibaba Group's head of North America B2B John Caplan said: "Less than one third of businesses we surveyed have been doing business online for more than five years...[indicating] an enormous opportunity for US SMBs to digitise and grow their businesses globally with ease."

The Chinese vendor last July opened up Alibaba.com to US sellers for the first time, extending access to the B2B e-commerce platform beyond US buyers. It said then that one third of buyers on the site were US businesses.

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