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Office Depot’s Alibaba collaboration

March 5, 2019


The American business supplies distribution company has announced the strategic linkup with the B2B trading platform.

According to Office Depot, the goal of this collaboration is to “empower US small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to grow by tapping into the global B2B e-commerce marketplace, which was most recently valued at $23.9 trillion (€21.08 trillion) by the US International Trade Commission.

The collaboration will leverage the companies’ respective strengths to serve US SMBs, including Office Depot’s relationships with more than 10 million US business customers, a dedicated sales force of approximately 1,800 sales professionals, a marketing demand engine that drives more than 450 million combined store, mobile and website visits annually, “one of the largest e-commerce platforms in the US”, a supply chain network that can reach nearly 99 percent of US businesses with next day delivery, and approximately 1,350 Office Depot and OfficeMax retail locations.

Alibaba.com will bring its global network of over 150,000 suppliers, a “vast” catalogue of product listings and manufacturing capabilities, and an end-to-end technology platform that provides SMBs with a range of tools and services to grow their businesses.

The collaboration will focus on several key areas expected to provide US entrepreneurs and business owners with access to a single online destination to access one of the world’s largest catalogues of goods and services across all product categories. During the initial launch period, the focus is on multiple areas.

These areas include: A new co-branded online destination, ‘Office Depot on Alibaba.com,’ providing SMBs access to a wide product selection, exclusive offers, and Alibaba’s global supplier network; enhanced sales and customer support, including a direct line to sourcing experts who will help customers engage with Alibaba’s global supplier base; and driving SMB adoption. Both companies are investing in marketing initiatives in order to “build understanding of the value and opportunity created for SMB customers through this collaboration,” and to drive adoption of the platform and services. 

Office Depot is leveraging its 33 years of experience in serving SMBs and using both online and offline marketing to reach its more than 10 million US business customers and prospective customers. Alibaba.com is focusing the “promotional firepower” of its March Expo – a month-long online promotional event that helps SMBs discover new products, services, and business opportunities on Alibaba.com – as well as future marketing initiatives, to similarly drive engagement with US SMBs online and in Office Depot and OfficeMax stores.

After the initial launch period, Office Depot and Alibaba.com intend to expand their collaboration to develop additional business customer offerings. These include: Faster, more transparent and cost-effective distribution and fulfilment, improving cross-border distribution, and shortening delivery times by combining Alibaba’s logistics capabilities with Office Depot’s distribution network of over 1,000 trucks, 1,350 retail outlets, and 9 million square feet of distribution/fulfilment capacity; and a new sales channel for US SMBs, helping SMBs to sell their products to buyers both in the US and around the world through Alibaba.com.

“As a trusted partner to millions of businesses, our customers tell us they want more choice in the market and need an expanded set of products and services to help their businesses grow. We believe our collaboration with Alibaba.com is exactly what they are asking for,” said Gerry Smith, CEO of Office Depot, Inc. “Leveraging Office Depot’s trusted brand, local presence, and national supply chain distribution network with Alibaba’s global supplier network and well-known capabilities in serving SMBs, US businesses can now access a wide array of products and services through Office Depot and Alibaba.com’s collaboration, which will empower them to compete and thrive. Through this initial phase of work together with Alibaba.com, we intend to grow our collaboration in ways that will drive even greater value and choice for our current and future customers.”

John Caplan, head of North America B2B at Alibaba Group, said: “American SMBs – who account for 99.7 percent of all companies in the United States – need more ways to grow and compete in today’s economy and take advantage of the enormous opportunity in B2B e-commerce. Since our founding, Alibaba’s mission has been to make it easy to do business anywhere. With Office Depot, we will be able to offer SMBs more choice, greater access, and further opportunities to grow. We’ll accomplish this by leveraging Office Depot’s local relationships, capabilities, and expertise alongside Alibaba’s global platform, technologies, and proven marketplace model. Together, we see great opportunities to empower our customers and help them tap into the $23.9 trillion (€21.08 trillion) global B2B e-commerce market.”

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