(Image credit/Pixabay/ mohamed_hassan) Office Depot Inc. and Alibaba.com, an Alibaba Group business unit, have announced a strategic collaboration. The goal of this collaboration is to empower US small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to grow by tapping into the global B2B eCommerce marketplace.

The global eCommerce market was most recently valued at $23.9 trillion by the U.S. International Trade Commission.

This strategic collaboration seeks to serve US small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) including Office Depot’s relationships with more than 10 million US business customers. The company has a supply chain network that can reach nearly 99% of US businesses with next day delivery. It also has approximately 1,350 Office Depot and OfficeMax retail locations throughout the country.

John Caplan, head of North America B2B at Alibaba Group, said: “American SMBs account for 99.7% of all companies in the United States. They need ways to grow and compete in today’s economy and take advantage of the enormous opportunity in B2B e-commerce.

“Since our founding, Alibaba’s mission has been to make it easy to do business anywhere. Together, we see great opportunities to empower our customers and help them tap into the $23.9 trillion global B2B e-commerce market.”

Global network reach

Alibaba.com will bring its global network of over 150,000 suppliers, a vast catalogue of product listings and manufacturing capabilities. The company’s end-to-end technology platform provides SMBs with a range of tools and services to grow their businesses.

The collaboration will focus on several key areas expected to provide US entrepreneurs and business owners access to a single online destination. This will also provide access to one of the world’s largest catalogues of goods and services across all product categories. During the initial launch period, the focus is on the following areas:

A new co-branded online destination. Office Depot and Alibaba.com have launched a new online destination, www.alibaba.com/officedepot. This provides SMBs access to Alibaba’s global supplier network, offering a wide product selection, as well as exclusive online and in-store offers for some of Office Depot’s best-in-class products and services.

Enhanced sales and US-based customer support. Office Depot stores will reach out to SMBs to introduce them to the benefits of the products and services the companies are providing. Alibaba’s US-based team is also working with Office Depot’s customer support to provide business customers with local support. The company will source experts who will help SMBs engage with Alibaba’s global supplier base.

Driving SMB adoption. Both companies are investing in marketing initiatives to build understanding of the opportunities created for SMB customer through this collaboration. Office Depot is using both online and offline marketing to reach its 10 million business customers and prospects. Alibaba is focusing its promotional energy on its March Expo. This is a month-long online promotional event that helps SMBs discover new products, services, and business opportunities on Alibaba. In addition, future marketing initiatives are planned to drive engagement with SMBs online and in Office Depot and OfficeMax stores.

Future plans for this strategic collaboration

After a successful initial launch period, Office Depot and Alibaba intend to expand their collaboration to develop the following additional business customer offerings:

  • Faster, more transparent and cost-effective distribution and fulfilment. The companies intend to significantly improve the cross-border distribution and fulfilment they can offer SMBs. This is expected to shorten delivery times by connecting Alibaba’s global logistics capabilities with Office Depot’s integrated B2B supply chain and distribution network.
  • A new sales channel for U.S. SMBs. The companies intend to help US SMBs sell their products to buyers in the US and around the world through Alibaba.com.

According to Gerry Smith, CEO of Office Depot: “As a trusted partner to millions of businesses, our customers tell us they want more choice in the market. They also need an expanded set of products and services to help their businesses grow. We believe our collaboration with Alibaba.com is exactly what they are asking for.”

Smith added: “US businesses can now access a wide array of products and services through Office Depot and Alibaba’s collaboration. This will empower them to compete and thrive. Through this initial phase of work with Alibaba.com. We intend to grow our collaboration to drive greater value and choice for our current and future customers.”

Enterprise Times: What this means for businesses

Earlier in the week, JD.com China’s second-biggest online shopping service, began selling some of its goods through a Google e-commerce platform in the US.  This partnership offers both sides a chance to expand their virtual retail reach. US shoppers can buy around 500 products from JD.com’s Joybuy in-house brand. This is now followed by Office Depot and Alibaba.com strategic collaboration.

As mentioned in a previous editorial, Increasingly, businesses irrespective of size, sector or maturity, will be looking east, to China for innovation, investment and partners. Consequently, it is not surprising that US players are the first businesses, off the mark, and looking east.


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