Alibaba woos US small businesses

By Amy He in New York | China Daily USA | Updated: 2017-06-20 10:18

When Alibaba's Jack Ma met with US President Donald Trump in January, he said he would create a million jobs in the US, and he'll be making his first attempt at fulfilling that pledge in Detroit this week.

Alibaba's Gateway '17 conference on Tuesday and Wednesday is pitched as a way to get small- and medium-sized American businesses to sign onto Alibaba's various e-commerce platforms, like Taobao and Tmall. Ma will give a keynote address on Wednesday to an expected audience of thousands to learn how to succeed in China through Alibaba.

"The Chinese market presents tremendous opportunities for US small businesses and farmers to grow their businesses, and in turn, create more US jobs", Ma said in an April letter announcing the conference.

"At Alibaba, we want to help you take advantage of this appetite for consumption through our e-commerce marketplaces," he said. The event will be held in Detroit because it is "home to some of America's greatest ingenuity and innovation," Ma added.

Ma had previously said that he hopes that the percentage of Alibaba's business outside of China will increase from 2 percent to roughly 40 percent. Cross-border transactions grew ten-fold between 2010 to 2014, increasing from $2 billion to $20 billion.

Alibaba has focused on big US corporations like Costco and Gerber selling on its e-commerce sites, but it has increasingly sought small- and medium-sized businesses that don't have as big a reach but have established followings.

This year's conference, which Alibaba says it plans to host annually, will feature Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, Michigan Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley, Martha Stewart, and David Abney, chairman and CEO of UPS.

"UPS is encouraging US companies to take advantage of tremendous export growth opportunities," Abney said in a statement to China Daily about the conference.

"Our message is: China is a market that can deliver growth, if companies partner with experienced leaders that can help with product visibility, like Alibaba marketplaces, and product delivery with help from UPS," he said.

UPS has been aggressively pursuing the Chinese market as e-commerce activity continues to soar. The Atlanta-based logistics giant announced a joint venture with SF Holding, China's largest delivery service, in June to provide international delivery service from China to the US.

The Detroit Chinese Business Association (DCBA), which fosters trade relations between Chinese and American businesses, has been helping to promote and market the conference with its members and other companies looking to do business in China.

"Alibaba as a platform is perfect for job creation in the US," said Brian Gao, president of the DCBA.

"Small- and medium-sized businesses have no way of competing with big corporations overseas because the cost of entry can be so high, but Alibaba essentially breaks down that barrier by providing a platform for those businesses and helping standardize those transactions," he said.

The conference spotlights several small businesses in the US that are using the Alibaba platforms to draw in Chinese customers, including the Washington Apple Commission, LuckyVitamin, and OtterBox.

The Washington Apple Commission promoted its supplies of American apples on Alibaba last year through a one-hour live broadcast on Tmall, and drew about $275,000 in sales volume.


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