Tag: alibaba

Top 5 Global B2B Marketplaces

Top B2B E-Commerce Platforms

The global B2B e-commerce industry was worth US$12.2 trillion in 2019 and according to Statista, that was six times more than the worth of B2C e-commerce1. These numbers suggest that the future of e-commerce, at least the near future, is B2B. But are you familiar with the top five B2B marketplaces? As it stands Amazon Business and Alibaba.com lead the pack, but let’s take a deeper look at the top 5 B2B marketplaces.

Amazon Business

Their tagline says it all, “Everything you love about Amazon. For your business2.” That means businesses simply register and can start using the platform to purchase business supplies. Employers are also allowed to add multiple users to buy on their behalf. “Workflow Approval” allows buyers to create carts to send back for approval and build a list of preferred suppliers and products.  Amazon Business also provides “Spend Visibility” where the account admin has an overview of what is being spent on what.

Key features:

/         Price savings. Offers exclusive price discounts, price breaks or quantity discounts and provides access to millions of products.

/         Shipping. Has four fulfilment options: Business Prime (same day, one-day, two-day shipping depending on eligibility), Amazon Fulfilment (user’s choice), free shipping (on orders of $25 or more of eligible items) and pallet shipping (dock or doorstep delivery).

/         Payment. Offers purchasing via card or line of credit, plus tax exemption for convenience and savings.

/         Sponsored ads. Helps shoppers find brands at every stage of their journey, such as the first page of search results or product detail pages3.

/          Enhanced product content. Helps businesses improve their listings by providing key product information such as CAD files, images and videos, application and user guides, manuals, etc.

Key benefits:

Amazon Business claims that “third-party sellers make up +50% of our $10 billion annualized sales run rate.” Additionally, because it’s a one-stop destination for both on the spot and strategic purchases, it boasts that it helps businesses control their spending4.

Alibaba.Com

What was originally a yellow page directory, Alibaba.com is now an end-to-end trading platform “to make it easy to do business everywhere5.” Its focus may be on Chinese manufacturers, but it serves millions of buyers and suppliers worldwide. Often referred to as the “Amazon of China,” Alibaba acts as a middleman between two parties. Businesses can list their products for free on Alibaba.com or pay for greater exposure on the site much like how Google does it for brands.

Key features6:

/         Product verification. Inspects products for quality and when a product is successful, it gains a “Verified Main Product” designation.

/         Trade assurance. Refunds businesses enough to cover the initial deposit in the event of delayed shipping or if a wrong item is sent.

/         Payment. Offers security and flexibility via Alipay (similar to PayPal), bank transfers, letter of credit, Western Union and Escrow.

/         Customs data. Provides U.S. retailers access to public trading records of the foreign suppliers they’re dealing with on Alibaba.

Key benefits:

Aside from access to countless numbers of suppliers, businesses can buy at extremely low prices and sell at premium retail prices. Equally important is that, unlike Amazon, Alibaba doesn’t compete with its customers and doesn’t require them to invest in warehousing and logistics as their business model is software driven. Their philosophy is to facilitate business between two entities.

Rakuten Marketplace

Dubbed as the “Amazon of Japan,” Rakuten Marketplace was primarily a Japanese marketplace until it acquired Buy.com and started to compete with Amazon and eBay. To strengthen their game in the US, Rakuten acquired Ebates.com allowing customers to earn Super Points or 1% of the product’s price which they can use on the next purchase. Sellers must be approved by Rakuten to sell.7

Key features8:

/         Personalized storefront. Allows brands to mimic their website, enabling them to showcase and control their identity and messaging.

/         Custom product pages. Enables brands to provide rich product content such as detailed product information, images and demo videos.

/         Customer support. Provides sellers with training and guidance, as well as a dedicated e-commerce consultant (ECC).

/         Email marketing. Offers R-mail, a newsletter-like tool, allowing sellers to send existing customers updates and offerings.

Key benefits:

Much like Alibaba, Rakuten doesn’t compete with its customers. On Rakuten, the competition is strictly between merchants. Big on providing great experiences, it encourages merchants to compete on hospitality and customer service, not just on price.

IndiaMart

With the tagline “To make doing business easy,” it sounds very similar to Alibaba. It’s India’s largest B2B marketplace boasting over 98 million buyers, 5.9 million suppliers and 66 million products & services9.

Key features:

/         Two-way discovery. Facilitates buyer-supplier location on its marketplace via email or SMS query or through IndiaMART.

/         Payment protection program. Offers reliable and secure transactions through their free service IndiaMART Payment Protection10.

Key benefits:

IndiaMART believes that its unique selling points against other marketplaces are “reach, brand recognition, breadth and quality of suppliers and product listings, pricing and customer service.11

Global Sources

According to their LinkedIn page, “Global Sources is a leading B2B media company and a primary facilitator of trade between Asia and the world using English-language media such as trade shows (GlobalSources.com/exhibitions), online marketplaces (GlobalSources.com), magazines, and apps 12.” It has the same goal as Alibaba, which is to facilitate global trade. However, Global Sources’ close ties with Hong Kong trade fairs ensures it doesn’t encounter issues with counterfeit products.

Key features13:

/         Verified supplier system. Helps suppliers build a reliable image by running their registration details through independent third parties.

/         Supplier capability assessment. Enables buyers to audit suppliers based on production facilities, capabilities and product quality.

/         UI/UX. Facilitates easy navigation with a user-friendly interface, provides convenience with a flexible search engine. Provides insight via a built-in tool to compare suppliers and their products14.

Key benefits:

Global Sources main highlight is its reliability guarantee. It may only have 15,000 suppliers compared to Alibaba’s one million, but all of those underwent a strict selection process.

In summary, B2B marketplaces are on the rise. They are good testing grounds for businesses who are just starting with e-commerce or are looking for something to support their web shop. It’s worth noting that each of these top B2B marketplaces has their own unique selling points that may work for some but not for others.

Conversational Commerce, Hyperpersonalization and Deep Product Information for the Win!

Conversational Commerce, Hyperpersonalization and Deep Product Information for the Win!

With new apps and smart speakers being released with even more smart assistants almost every quarter, and with the continuous expansion of ecommerce goliaths, conversational commerce is going to be the next big hurdle for manufacturers and non-market-leading brands.

Let’s take a deeper look into the conversational elements of voice assistants and smart speakers that are quickly making their way into every home.

Big brands are going to increase their advantage in the conversational commerce corner simply because they are market leaders. So, how can you make it to the top as a non-market-leading brand and/or product?

Taking Amazon as the leading example, there are a couple of key elements that you need to arrange, such as having your product prime-authorized, putting up a choice badge (which will help for sure), increasing shipping speed and some other important elements.

Secondly, you need to get the attention of the potential customer, which is not going to be easy as they might not even see your product when searching online. But once they found your product, your product might get ordered over and over again, which will prompt the commerce hubs to push your product harder to your network.

But the question “how do you get that ball rolling?” remains.

They are several ways of doing this, for sure hyperpersonalization will be a big part of this as the fight for the customer will continue. The commerce hubs will have several ways of promoting their own products and your products, mainly through trustworthy channels like email marketing and their own online platforms, next to conversational channels like chat and voice. If you are able to feed those platforms via deep integrations with your product information systems you are enabling them to more easily and oftenly push your product. This also depends on the maturity of the commerce channels used, but for the sake of this blogpost, let’s leave that to a blogpost for another time.

The challenge of hyperpersonalization with customer experience and deep product information is that it can only be as successful as the information available. And getting this deep level of information disclosed to the goliath platforms isn’t always an easy thing – but with connectors, APIs and microservices rapidly evolving, this becomes easier every year.

As a colleague of mine often says, “Amazon and product information can be fascinating!” He showed me this example where if you go to Amazon and you search for “Chocolate”, you get like >50.000 results. But if you then search for “Chocolate that does not contain alcohol” it drops to just shy of 800 (Now if that would be true a lot of evenings would be even more fun and let’s not go into the mornings;).

The difference can simply be found in complete product information (and inheritance rules and smart product experience platforms will go a long way here).

With each touchpoint, the commerce goliath will learn more about the customer and this will be connected to the customer’s profile so that future offers, both non-conversational as well as conversational can be personalized to the person’s profile going forward. Where whoever has their ducks and data in a row the best will get on top of the ever evolving and future challenging channel called “commerce”.

Customer and Product Experience at 350,000 Transactions Per Second

Online shopping

Singles Day Burns Up the Wires

With “Singles Day” breaking another year of all-time records it’s a unique repeatable situation that stretches the imagination of many commerce organizations. Where the basecamp for this year over year growth success can be found in positive customer and product experiences.

In terms of numbers, last year was already mindboggling with over 800 million transactions in 24 hours. This year the number even excelled itself as more than $31b was generated – of which alone the first 10% in the first 5 minutes! But it doesn´t only refer to a monetary aspect. When you take a look on all this from a technical perspective, just imagine the pressure on the tech stack and the organizations behind all this. Fascinating!

It´s All About the Experience

Not even 10 years ago Alibaba connected the singles day to the commercial success we know today. The year over year growth could only be as successful as it is if the overall customer experience is positive and people get the product experience they are after. Without these two main factors Singles Day would never become as successful as it is today.

Thus, what makes a great customer experience? It’s actually more about the perception that the customer has with the brand. In many of the big commerce hubs like Alibaba, Amazon and local others the customer connects through these hubs because of the brand experience they offer. Where the context of each customer interaction plays a tremendous role in shaping the customer experience. This starts often at the first touchpoints with the brand and ends with the product experience, where if this last point isn’t managed correctly it will get returned.

All that leading to one decisive fact: Managing the product experience is key! How often haven’t we all ordered something online (with and/or without proper vetting the options) only to get disappointed when delivery takes place. Commerce hubs and their suppliers are on the hook for shaping the experience. And offering a contextual product experience can not only create a better customer experience, it can reduce costs greatly.

What happens if you don’t offer a great experience?

Roughly 30% of all orders get shipped back, simple because they don’t live up to the expected product experience – which according to a study from UPS can eat into 20-65% of the costs of an organization. Apart from the financial position, consider the effect on the consumers. Although returning products gets easier every year, as an organization you can only get away with this bad experience so many times before your customer chooses an ecommerce shop that makes good on the end-to-end experience.

Being in Marketing Operations myself with a love for technology on how it can help the business, of course we will take a look at the technology supporting all this. But it comes down to the main following:

  • Alibaba’s Cloud solution including autonomous scaling
  • AI and machine learning for display advertising
  • Several solutions to optimize the customer and product experience, including
    • AI powered fashion mix-and-match suggestions based on product images and deep product information
    • Virtual fitting rooms to try the product before purchasing

Over the years Alibaba made full use of futurized technologies, always focused on delivering amazing customer and product experiences. By overdelivering year over year on the experience Alibaba was able to again pull of a smooth Singles Day obliviating previous years and offering a great experience to returning customers and a whole new generation of long lasting new customers.