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Office Depot and Alibaba Announce Partnership That Will Bolster American SMBs

Office Depot and Alibaba Announce Partnership That Will Bolster American SMBs
American retailer Office Depot has partnered with Chinese B2B company Alibaba.com to help U.S. small businesses tap into the global e-commerce market. / Credit: Nopparat Khokthong / Shutterstock

A collaboration between two international B2B companies is being touted as a win for American businesses, giving them access to global suppliers that can help them operate and grow.

Earlier today, American retailer Office Depot and Chinese B2B platform Alibaba.com announced their partnership and their mission to "empower U.S. small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to grow by tapping into the global B2B e-commerce marketplace."

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

The announcement comes as American and Chinese leaders continue to discuss ongoing trade tensions between the two economic powerhouses.

The partnership will open the companies' resources to small businesses in the U.S.

Office Depot brings its network of "more than 10 million U.S. business customers; a dedicated sales force of approximately 1,800 sales professionals; a marketing demand engine that drives more than 450 million combined store, mobile and website visits annually; one of the largest e-commerce platforms in the U.S.; a robust supply chain network that can reach nearly 99 percent of U.S. businesses with next-day delivery; and approximately 1,350 Office Depot and OfficeMax retail locations."

Alibaba.com, on the other hand, will provide "its global network of over 150,000 suppliers, a vast catalog of product listings and manufacturing capabilities, and an end-to-end technology platform" to small businesses.

"American SMBs – who account for 99.7 percent of all companies in the United States – need more ways to grow and compete in today's economy and take advantage of the enormous opportunity in B2B e-commerce," said John Caplan, head of North America B2B at Alibaba Group. "With Office Depot, we will be able to offer SMBs more choice, greater access and further opportunities to grow ... Together, we see great opportunities to empower our customers and help them tap into the $23.9 trillion global B2B e-commerce market." [Related: 7 E-commerce Trends to Watch in 2019]

Moving forward, representatives said the two companies will begin focusing on ways to give business owners a single online location to access all of the partnership's offerings.

To start, officials said Office Depot and Alibaba.com have already launched their co-branded online destination. Visitors will be able to tap into the Chinese company's supplier network while also being able to take advantage of the American retailer's online and in-store offers.

The launch also comes with Office Depot's sales force, in concert with Alibaba.com’s U.S.-based customer support team, reaching out to its more than 10 million U.S. business customers to make them aware of the new benefits and services available as a result of the partnership.

Both companies are also investing resources into their marketing initiatives to help small businesses learn of the partnership's benefits in an effort to "drive adoption of the platform and services." While Office Depot will rely on its more than three decades of working with American small businesses, Alibaba.com will reportedly focus on its monthlong promotional event, the March Expo. Other future marketing efforts are also planned to help both companies bolster engagement.

Following the initial launch phase, the companies plan to expand their offerings by providing "faster, more transparent and cost-effective" distribution methods and a "new sales channel for U.S. SMBs." They'll do the former by "connecting Alibaba's global logistics capabilities with Office Depot's integrated B2B supply chain and distribution network of more than 1,000 private fleet trucks, 9 million square feet of distribution and fulfillment capacity, approximately 1,350 retail locations, and dozens of third-party logistics partners."

By "leveraging Office Depot's trusted brand, local presence, and national supply chain distribution network with Alibaba’s global supplier network and well-known capabilities in serving SMBs," Smith said American businesses "can now access a wide array of products and services through Office Depot and Alibaba.com's collaboration, which will empower them to compete and thrive."

Andrew Martins

Andrew Martins is an award-winning journalist with a BA in journalism from Ramapo College of New Jersey. Before joining Business.com and Business News Daily, he wrote for a regional publication and served as the managing editor for six weekly papers that spanned four counties. He is a New Jersey native and a first-generation Portuguese-American, and he has a penchant for the nerdy.

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