Office Depot and Chinese eCommerce Giant Alibaba Form Strategic Partnership

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Office Depot and Alibaba.com, one of the world’s largest B2B trading platforms and an Alibaba Group business unit, today announced a strategic collaboration designed to enable U.S. small and mid-size businesses (SMBs) to grow by tapping into the global B2B e-commerce marketplace, which was most recently valued at $23.9 trillion by the U.S. International Trade Commission.

Office Depot is  B2B integrated distribution company providing business services and supplies, products and technology solutions through its platform of approximately 1,350 stores, its online presence, and dedicated sales professionals and technicians for small, mid-size, and enterprise businesses.

Alibaba is a Chinese multinational conglomerate specializing in ecommerce, retail, Internet, and technology. Founded in 1999, the company provides consumer-to-consumer (C2C), business-to-consumer (B2C),and business-to-business (B2B) sales services via web portals, as well as via electronic payment services, shopping search engines and cloud computing services.

The companies say the collaboration will leverage their respective strengths to serve U.S. SMBs, including Office Depot’s relationships with more than 10 million U.S. business customers, a dedicated sales force of approximately 1,800 sales professionals, and 450-million combined store, mobile and website visits annually, one of the largest e-commerce platforms in the United States. Office Depot also says it has a robust supply chain network that can reach nearly 99 percent of U.S. 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 large  catalog of product listings and manufacturing capabilities, and an end-to-end technology platform that’s said to provide SMBs with a range of tools and services to grow their businesses.

The collaboration will focus on several key areas expected to provide U.S. entrepreneurs and business owners 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 will on the following areas:

  • A new co-branded online destination, “Office Depot on Alibaba.com”: Office Depot and Alibaba.com have launched a new online destination, www.alibaba.com/officedepot, that provides U.S. SMBs access to Alibaba.com’s global supplier network, offering a wide product selection, as well as exclusive online and in-store offers for some of Office Depot’s best-in-class products and services.
  • Enhanced sales and U.S.-based customer support: Members of Office Depot’s sales force are reaching out to a number of relevant SMBs – leveraging their relationships with over 10 million U.S. business customers – to introduce them to the benefits of the products and services the companies are providing. Alibaba.com’s U.S.-based team is also working with Office Depot’s trusted customer support staff to provide U.S. business customers with local support and a direct line to sourcing experts who will help them engage with Alibaba.com’s global supplier base.
  • Driving SMB adoption: Both companies are investing in marketing initiatives “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 U.S. business customers and prospective customers. Alibaba.com is focusing  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 U.S. 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 the following additional business customer offerings:

  • Faster, more transparent and cost-effective distribution and fulfillment. The companies intend to significantly improve the cross-border distribution and fulfillment they can offer U.S. SMBs. This is expected to shorten delivery times by connecting Alibaba’s global logistics capabilities with Office Depot’s integrated B2B supply chain and distribution network of more than 1,000 private fleet trucks, 9 million square feet of distribution and fulfillment capacity, approximately 1,350 retail locations, and dozens of third-party logistics partners.
  • A new sales channel for U.S. SMBs. Over time, the companies intend to help U.S. SMBs sell their products to buyers in the U.S. and around the world through Alibaba.com.

Office Depot CEO Gerry Smith commented: “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. 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, U.S. 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 global B2B e-commerce market.”

For more information on the partnership, visit this Webpage.

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