WWD Digital Daily

Alibaba to Offer Supply Chain, Digital Training For U. S. Businesses


Online shopping has surged amid store closures and six-foot social distancing mandates around the globe. But while the coronaviru­s may have accelerate­d what was already in the works pre-pandemic, some parts of the retail sphere are having trouble keeping up — like the supply chain.

E-commerce sites and shop-from-home technologi­es are now essential for fashion and retail brands that wish to survive long enough to enter the post-COVID-19 world. But it turns out a massive urgency in e-commerce isn’t easy — or cheap. Even big-box retailers like Target are learning firsthand how expensive the sudden surge in an online business can be. The added rush from the upcoming holiday shopping season — and the fear that distributi­on systems might not be able to handle the sheer volume of e-commerce orders — likely won’t help.

Small and medium-sized businesses, many with limited or no online capabiliti­es before the pandemic, will likely suffer the most. Alibaba, China’s B2B platform, might have the answer.

Starting Tuesday, U.S. small and mediumsize­d businesses — that is, businesses with 500 or fewer associates — could sign up for the Alibaba.com Digitaliza­tion Sprint for

U.S. Manufactur­ers program.

The four-week program, which kicks off in November, offers U.S. manufactur­ers tips and tricks for more effectivel­y managing digital channels. These include learning advanced skills in online marketing, selling and sourcing, among other things, to help accelerate each businesses’ digital transforma­tion.

“We see a shift in consumer behavior that is permanent; a permanent shift to global,” said John Caplan, president of Alibaba.com’s North America and Europe divisions. “Digitaliza­tion is the only bridge to the future for American and global small businesses.

“It used to be that [businesses] could only sell as far as they could drive,”

Caplan continued. “But now, using digital technology to reach the world really is the future of small businesses.”

In fact, 42 percent of the small and medium-sized businesses surveyed by Alibaba in its “U.S. B2B Small and Medium Business Survey” increased their volume of business-to-business operations online in the six months prior to September, despite the pandemic, compared to the same period a year earlier.

Even hiring practices are showing signs of digitaliza­tion and increased need for online tools. While many retailers have cut back on seasonal hires for the upcoming holiday, the same survey found that 57 percent of the small and medium-sized businesses have hired more people in the last six months, compared with the same time last year, because of digitaliza­tion. Another

79 percent of those businesses said they plan to hire more people amid the companies’ digital transforma­tion.

The new training program will help small and mediumsize­d firms manage the digital transforma­tion.

Firms are increasing­ly investing in new online capabiliti­es.

“The disruption to retail suggests that traditiona­l retail has a steep hill to climb to get digital,” said Caplan, who added that a lot of manufactur­ers are also trying to play catch-up, digitizing their systems at a rate two times faster than a year ago. “We think manufactur­ers who have relied on the traditiona­l model don’t really have a playbook. A lot of businesses, small manufactur­ers, want to digitize, but don’t know how to start.

“Digital is the new front door of any business,” he continued. “We’re opening the door for American manufactur­ers so they can reach the global community effectivel­y and benefit from the digital technology that can make a bridge for the next decade.”

Earlier this year, Alibaba rolled out digital tools for small and medium-sized U.S.

 ??  ?? Chinese B2B platform Alibaba is expanding in the U.S.
Chinese B2B platform Alibaba is expanding in the U.S.

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