E-commerce player helps small companies make China connection

Export Now will work with e-commerce giant Alibaba to list U.S. companies' products on two sites focused on online Chinese consumers.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

Aspire to sell products in China but not sure how to get started? Export Now is offering a new e-commerce service that is specifically focused on small and midsize businesses hoping to export their goods into China. The company is making its formal launch this month.

Essentially, Export Now will act as your company's export partner, accepting goods on consignment that it will sell through a store called Tmall.com (warning, the site is in Chinese) and on Taobao.com, which is basically the biggest business-to-consumer Internet platform in the world. Tmall is run by Internet giant Alibaba; it has roughly 370 million registered customers.

Frank Lavin, the founder and global CEO of Export Now, and former U.S. Undersecretary of Commerce and Ambassador to Singapore, said more smaller companies are looking to international markets to counteract the protracted slowdown in the United States. However, many of them find it difficult to navigate the cultural and financial barriers it takes to tap overseas markets.

"The most expensive cost is customer identification," Lavin said. "In these new markets, you are starting at zero."

What Export Now offers is a twofold service: a technology platform that it uses to manage sales of U.S. companies' products on the aforementioned e-commerce sites and logistics capabilities that navigate getting your products into the local market. Participating SMBs will pay a $3,000 start-up fee, which covers getting one pallet of products into China and listing for up to 12 months. The would-be exporters have to fill out an online profile page, along with payment information. They also need to create a page template that will be used to list its products; Export Now handles translation and listing activities. After the start-up fees, Export Now customers will also pay a 10 percent transaction fee for all products sold.

Lavin said Export Now is targeting three sorts of companies:

  • Those that have been trying to develop a strategy for China but that haven't managed to get it off the ground yet
  • Those that have been thinking about exporting on a broader basis
  • E-commerce companies that are seeking to extend beyond the U.S. border

Export Now's focus on China is driven not only by Lavin's extensive experience with country and its culture but also because of its status as the world's second largest economy. China is the third largest market for American exports, after Canada and Mexico, he notes. "Chinese consumers are affluent and sophisticated," Lavin said.

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