- Alibaba is launching a program next month called the Digitization Sprint for U.S. Manufacturers meant to provide training on how suppliers can attract buyers through B2B e-commerce channels, according to an announcement from the company.
- The curriculum for the sprint will include e-commerce fundamentals, digital advertising, how to take photos of products and lead generation. There will also be coaching provided from organizations like the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and Brooklyn Navy Yard.
- Manufacturing companies with fewer than 500 employees are eligible to sign up for the first sprint, which will take place in mid-November with limited spots available. The sprint will include webinars twice a week, office hours with subject area experts and other informal meet-ups over Zoom, a spokesperson said.
The announcement of the sprint came at the same time that Alibaba released the findings of its B2B small business survey, which found substantial growth in the adoption of B2B e-commerce in the first nine months of 2020.
When Alibaba asked small businesses how they process or placed orders with another business in December 2019, 21% said through an e-commerce marketplace and 21% said through a supplier website. These options grew to 35% and 34%, respectively, by September.
The survey found that legacy processes are still more common, but losing ground to e-commerce methods. Email and phone were used by 65% of respondents in December 2019, but the survey showed them dropping to 47% for email and 48% for phone by September.
The survey of 5,015 U.S.-based, small and medium-sized B2B businesses was conducted by Ipsos between Sept. 4 and 20, 2020, as a follow-up to a similar survey in December.
"The pandemic has really accelerated the digitization of U.S. B2B SMB," Erica Chan, head of marketing for North America at Alibaba, told reporters Monday.
It found that 42% of businesses increased their online B2B transactions, 38% held them at the same level and just 20% decreased online transactions in the previous six months compared to the same period in 2019.
The increased use of e-commerce marketplaces can allow a seller to reach a larger pool of potential buyers, but there are also benefits for the purchasing organization, according to McKinsey. These benefits include a larger selection of vendors and more transparency with regard to product and pricing. Concerns like timezones also become lesser issues with the adoption of marketplaces.
"For large enterprises, marketplaces’ ability to plug into companies’ entire source-to-pay (S2P) process is among their most powerful characteristics," McKinsey wrote in a report on B2B e-commerce. "By integrating with customers’ third-party purchasing systems, marketplaces automate, digitize, and simplify sourcing."
But users of online marketplaces should be aware of what they're using. In a broker model a marketplace will connect buyers and sellers, but doesn't usually provide any warranty or shoulder any responsibilty for ensuring a delivery takes place, McKinsey said.
Retail is the industry that has adopted e-commerce the most with 52% of B2B buying and selling happening via e-commerce. But manufacturing grew more in its e-commerce buying and selling than any other industry, jumping from 33% in December to reach 41% in September.
The plans for the Digitization Sprint come a year after Alibaba started providing the ability for U.S. companies to create e-commerce storefronts on its marketplace that buyers could use to find suppliers.