Amid China’s efforts in recent months to boost small business activities – notably through initiatives that focused on small business lending in that country – Alibaba Group’s Taobao expanded its Maker Festival to be global in scope, with a spotlight on the youngest of entrepreneurs.
The September event, which spanned Sept. 13 through 16, is further evidence of the eCommerce giant’s “new retail” strategies, where offline and online conduits converge, as noted by sites such as marketing-interactive.com.
Alibaba, said reports, collaborated with Microsoft via a “future retail” and tech museum, which in turn gave visitors shopping experiences grounded in “mixed reality,” deploying QR codes, goggles and 3D holograms.
Beyond that collaboration, the festival focused on “homegrown” makers and millennial entrepreneurs, a nod toward smaller businesses that are gaining traction on the Taobao platform. CBN Data has found that 77 percent of the designers designated as independent are under the age of 34, while noting in its festival announcement that consumer searches for “original designs” were up more than 30 percent in 2017. Data from CBN also found that millennials launched as many as 700,000 shops on the Taobao platform last year.
The festival offers a snapshot of Alibaba’s own efforts to boost traction among smaller sellers across Taobao, the world’s biggest eCommerce website.
As noted during earnings season late last month, Alibaba posted revenue growth of 61 percent, a result of investment of its new retail efforts. And as had been specific to Taobao, the firm has been integrating delivery services to merchants on the platform.
If the festival is a snapshot of Taobao’s efforts, and Taobao is part of a larger movement where SMBs are gaining both traction and conduits by which to ply their wares and services, a larger trend can be seen in government efforts to boost small business activities in general. Regulators over the summer sought to stoke lending by telling banks to “significantly cut” lending rates to smaller outfits starting in the third quarter of the year, and against a backdrop where the average lending rate was just under 6 percent as measured in the first quarter of the year. That mandate came in tandem with a cut in the capital reserve requirement by 50 basis points. Small businesses account for roughly a third of all outstanding loans in the country.