The global pandemic continues to impact international trade, causing major disruption around the world and travel chaos. Now over twelve months since the global pandemic started, we take a closer look at how it has impacted B2B companies around the world and the challenges small business owners face in 2021. While the rise of e-commerce has certainly helped fuel international trade, we explore how Alibaba.com and localized services are helping to empower small business owners to seize the magnitude of opportunities generated by online shopping and changes to consumer behavior.
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The global pandemic triggered a massive shift in consumer behavior. With travel restrictions and lockdowns in place, buying everyday essentials went digital, with significant reliance on e-commerce for food, health supplies, medication, clothing, and PPE. Plus, COVID-19 caused mass unemployment worldwide and supply chain disruptions, forcing many small B2B companies to close their doors for good. According to data from the Federal Reserve, around 200,000 more US businesses permanently closed due to the global pandemic than in a typical year.1
A McKinsey study also revealed that business accelerated their digital efforts in both internal operations and customer and supply-chain interaction by three to four years across all sectors to overcome global pandemic restrictions and disruptions.2 While many small business owners were caught off-guard by the global pandemic, it certainly forced B2B companies to spring into action and go digital, or sadly go home! Initially, as a crisis response, many companies pivoted their digital adoption and quickly took their entire business and workforce online, with employees working remotely and businesses offering customers non-contact delivery services with ongoing online support to encourage online purchases.
Even with such a positive digital response to the global pandemic, international travel restrictions continue to cause long delays for import and export companies. For small business owners selling perishable items, this is a serious financial liability, as goods must be sent within a certain timeframe or they will become unsellable.
We only need to look at how the recent outbreak in India has affected local B2B companies to see how this global pandemic continues to threaten small business owners. After the country’s first wave of COVID-19 had seemingly faded away, the new variant has emerged and has claimed 28,000 lives in just one week in April 2020, and reported cases have risen to around 2.3 million.3 Since the Republic of India shipped $275.5 billion worth of goods worldwide in 2020; the current outbreak will have detrimental knock-on effects for countries that rely on Indian B2B companies for resources, pharmaceuticals, and essential food supplies.4
Plus, to prevent the spread of the new variant, strict international travel restrictions are being put in place, preventing B2B companies in India and in other countries where the variant has been detected, from exporting goods and traveling freely to carry out business meetings.The COVID-19 emergency isn’t just a humanitarian crisis but a global economic nightmare. India is the world’s 6th largest economy and is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of the COVID-19 vaccine, yet with the nation in need, overseas vaccination effects will surely be held up.5
So, let’s take a look at 3 challenges local B2B companies now face in 2021 and how they can overcome them in order to thrive and survive.
While e-commerce was thought only possible for small-ticket items, the global pandemic has encouraged customers also to buy big-ticket items online, cutting out the need for traditional retail premises, sales assistants, and cashiers. The digitalization of entire B2B companies has revealed a lack of digital marketing insight, knowledge, and awareness across most industries in relation to small business owners. To compete in this new digital environment and sell both small and big-ticket items, B2B companies will need to develop virtual sales teams, online customer service departments and use data to optimize their sales funnel.
E-commerce has also made video and live chat an essential feature for closing online sales. The global pandemic made business trips and factory visits almost impossible, but thanks to technology, B2B companies were able to nurture customer relations through video conferences and live chat services. In fact, online chat has increased by 23% since COVID-19 and video by 43% in the B2B world. This shows us that customers prefer video calls to traditional phone conversations and in-person meetings.6 To thrive in 2021, B2B companies must be comfortable using such technology and apps or risk being seen as outdated and unable to keep up with the modern digital-first world.
According to Accenture research, 46% of SMBs have invested in infrastructure to provide a virtual customer experience and improve their online presence. From offering contactless payment to publishing buying guides to educate their customers and increase online sales, B2B companies must invest in digital marketing immediately. Once the global pandemic becomes a historical event rather than a present-day concern, customers will still continue to search online for goods and services. Rather than continue to invest in traditional marketing methods, small business owners need to roll out a multi-platform customer experience. From using AI to optimize the sales funnel to publishing SEO content to increase your visibility within the search results, developing your online presence is essential.7
As the saying goes, out of adversity springs opportunity, and these challenges can also create new dynamics that ignite business growth.
In response to the global pandemic and ongoing challenges small business owners are facing online, Alibaba.com has ramped up its localized services to empower B2B companies.
Alibaba.com is devoted to bringing more business opportunities to small local businesses and accelerating the digital transformation of global B2B companies in 2021. Through education, digital awareness, online opportunities, and localized support, Alibaba.com continues to boost its seller’s performance around the world in relation to international trade and high-quality customer support. So let’s take a look at 5 localized services currently being provided by Alibaba.com.
Alibaba.com offers sellers the chance to exhibit at online events, such as the March Expo and Super September, which are annual promotional exhibitions. One Alibaba.com exhibition saw a 50% increase in business opportunities compared to average performance, highlighting the potential to attend and participate in virtual exhibitions. Alibaba.com will hold 10 additional category-specific online trade shows to help elevate their sellers and support small businesses to promote themselves and reach international buyers. B2B companies can use these events as a way to promote their products, services, and brand on an international stage.
Are you interested in taking part in a virtual trade show? Make sure to read our latest article on; Virtual trade shows; a complete guide.
Alibaba.com will upgrade its Global Gold Suppliers membership by introducing a brand-new onboarding package. This will include an intelligent tool setup to empower customers to start selling on the platform and take advantage of this well-established international marketplace. This incentive aims to help 5,000 new sellers improve their exposure on the platform by 15%, helping to optimize their conversion rate by posting professional product pictures.*
*Conditions may apply. Speak to an Alibaba.com consultant for details.
A dedicated official service team will work with account teams to provide customized service to boost suppliers’ businesses. Alibaba.com will be rolling out over 200 training programs to help small business owners get to grips with e-commerce and the platform’s digital capabilities. Educating new sellers on the best ways to promote their products and services will provide a higher quality experience for buyers too. These discussions with experts and peers provide invaluable learning opportunities for sellers.
During a global pandemic, travel restrictions will have a negative and ongoing impact on the supply chain, and so Alibaba.com has developed a range of partnerships with local banks, business partners, and logistic service providers to help sellers to pivot during uncertain times and continue importing and exporting goods around the world. Plus Alibaba.com will roll out Trade Assurance, a payment tool and service to provide smooth, secure online payment to a number of markets. If you’d like to learn more about overcoming shipping during a global pandemic, read our article on: Managing international shipping in the time of COVID-19.
*Only available in selected markets. Speak to an Alibaba.com consultant for details.
Knowledge is power and so educating sellers is a key element to Alibaba.com’s global success. A curriculum team of industry leaders and partners provides educational content on topics ranging from the fundamentals of e-commerce to pricing dynamics and developing digital advertising strategies to attract relevant customers and generate leads. Learn how to highlight your product features, take high-quality professional photos and optimize your digital storefront to maximize sales potential. By teaching sellers the best way to navigate this new digital environment, small business owners can thrive even during a global pandemic.
As the global pandemic continues to cause disruption to travel and international trade, it is up to small business owners to demonstrate their resilience and seize key opportunities to succeed online. Now is prime time to position your business as an industry leader, and this can be done by investing in digital marketing, online sales, and strengthening your online presence.
According to recent statistics, the Chinese e-commerce market is expected to reach $3 trillion by 2024, demonstrating how the future of B2B international trade will be forever reliant on digitalization. 8To take advantage of this remarkable moment in time as a B2B company, unlock your business potential by signing up to Alibaba.com. Reach a global audience, promote your products online with ease and enjoy the ongoing support, education, and guidance that Alibaba.com providers for its wide range of sellers and international buyers. In the meantime, feel free to check out our article for digital marketing tips for manufacturers; 10 digital marketing strategies for manufacturers.
2. https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/strategy-and-corporate-finance/our-insights/ how-covid-19-has-pushed-companies-over-the-technology-tipping-point-and-transformed-business-forever