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U.S. Small Businesses Gain Access to Alibaba's Global Platform

image for Dragon Images/Shutterstock
Dragon Images/Shutterstock
  • Alibaba is one of the largest B2B marketplaces in the world, serving millions of customers around the globe.
  • To help U.S. sellers adapt to the platform, Alibaba is co-producing a series of workshops and webinars with local chambers of commerce and B2B organizations.
  • The company also announced partnerships with U.S. companies, including Indeed and ShipStation.

For the first time ever, Alibaba.com has opened its e-commerce platform to small- and medium-sized American businesses looking to sell their wares on the company's massive business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) e-commerce marketplace.

Created in 1999 by a group of Chinese students in Hangzhou, Alibaba has grown to become a powerhouse in global e-commerce. During that time, the company has grown to serve more than 10 million active buyers in more than 190 countries and regions. 

With today's announcement, nearly 30 million U.S. SMBs now have access to Alibaba's massive network of global buyers and sellers. 

"Alibaba aims to empower entrepreneurs and help them succeed on their own terms," said John Caplan, head of North America B2B at Alibaba Group. "We are reshaping B2B commerce by providing the tools and services needed for U.S. SMB companies to compete and succeed in today's global marketplace."

According to the U.S. International Trade Commission, the B2B e-commerce market is worth nearly $24 trillion. Today's announcement not only makes that market more widely available to U.S. businesses, it also brings a host of new tools and services to help them grow, according to officials.

Starting today, Alibaba's offerings in the U.S. will allow for easy domestic payments, digital marketing tools and a newly created in-house support team. To further assist small businesses looking to utilize Alibaba.com's new features, the company is going on tour with a series of interactive "Build Up" workshops around the U.S., with its first stop taking place today in Brooklyn, New York. Each stop will be co-produced with local chambers of commerce and B2B organizations.

"Small businesses are the engine of the U.S. economy, but they face challenges," said Ken Yancey, CEO of SCORE. "SCORE and our network of mentors are excited about helping U.S. businesses learn about the huge opportunity in e-commerce at these physical and virtual Build Up workshops available to communities across the U.S."

Unlike Amazon, eBay and other e-commerce solutions, Alibaba.com announced it would not take any commission on each sale, allowing sellers to keep more of the profits. Rather than skim a little off the top from each transaction, SMBs looking to take advantage of the platform will have to pay a nearly $2,000 membership fee to get started on the platform, which is a stark contrast to the monthly or per-item charges that Amazon requires from its third-party sellers.

In the future, officials said they expect American businesses to be able to accept global online payments, improve local and global shipping and logistical capabilities, and increase collaborations with other major e-commerce players.

To help U.S. sellers succeed on the platform, Alibaba.com added features to streamline the process for both local and global business. U.S. business sellers will be able to take advantage of the following new features:

  • SMBs can build and manage their own digital storefront on Alibaba.com.
  • "Valuable transaction capabilities" will be implemented on the site, allowing for online payment. This feature debuts this Thursday, but it will not be available in New York or Nevada.
  • In-house CRM and communications tools help businesses cultivate customer relationships.
  • SMBs have an opportunity to work with Alibaba.com's U.S.-based "Seller Success" team.

U.S. businesses looking to buy products will also see new features added to Alibaba.com, including:

  • Access to a wider array of U.S.-based suppliers on the company's main U.S. landing page. The number of U.S. suppliers is expected to grow and will exist alongside thousands of existing global suppliers.
  • A feature-rich inquiry tool, which helps buyers initiate conversations with sellers.
  • Larger product selection options ranging from "ready-to-ship" to "fully customized."
  • Improved search functionality.

While these new features launch today, some larger U.S. companies have already opened storefronts on Alibaba.com, including Office Depot, which announced its partnership with the Chinese company back in March. Other American companies that have joined the Alibaba.com marketplace include 71lbs, BigCommerce, Indeed, TeamViewer and Wellbots.

Andrew Martins

I am a former newspaper editor who has transitioned to strictly cover the business world for business.com and Business News Daily. I am a four-time New Jersey Press Award winner and prior to joining my current team, I was the editor of six weekly newspapers that covered multiple counties in the state.