Partnerships / Acquisitions

Alibaba, Office Depot Team To Serve SMBs Online

B2B

In a pact aimed at selling online to small and medium-size businesses based in the United States, Office Depot and Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd. said on Monday (March 4) that they have launched a co-branded eCommerce site.

Office Depot said the linkup gives Alibaba access to the former’s 10 million customers and more than 1,800 sales agents. Conversely, Office Depot can offer its customers access to the Chinese B2B online giant’s 150,000 suppliers, expanded their options to find products or production.

“The goal of this collaboration is to empower U.S. small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to grow by tapping into the global B2B e-commerce marketplace,” the companies said in a joint statement, “which was most recently valued at $23.9 trillion by the U.S. International Trade Commission.”

Office Depot said that leverages what it termed a “marketing demand engine” that drives more than 450 million combined store, mobile and web site visits annually, and a supply chain network that can reach 99 percent of U.S. firms with next-day delivery.

The initial focus, said the firms, will include a new, co-branded destination to be known as “Office Depot on Alibaba.com.” Alibaba.com’s U.S.-based team is also working with Office Depot’s customer support staff to provide U.S. business customers with local support and “a direct line to sourcing experts who will help them engage with Alibaba.com’s global supplier base.” Later-stage efforts will focus on cross-border distribution and fulfillment for U.S. SMBs, tied to Office Depot’s 1,000 fleet trucks and roughly 9 million square feet of distribution and fulfillment capacity and 1,350 retail locations.

“Over time, the companies intend to help U.S. SMBs sell their products to buyers in the U.S. and around the world through Alibaba.com,” the companies said.

In an interview with CBS Marketwatch, John Caplan, head of Alibaba’s B2B efforts for North America, offered a bit of illumination on how the process might work: He gave the example of a kayak designer who orders office supplies through Office Depot and has a relationship with one of the store’s salespeople.

“Under the partnership, that business owner will be introduced to Alibaba.com’s manufacturing offerings, which may help if the small business wants to branch out into designing canoes as well. The Alibaba.com platform lets business owners search for verified manufacturers, negotiate prices with them and ultimately make payments,” the site reported.

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