TECHNOLOGY

Office Depot partners with Alibaba to give SMBs a big online resource

BY Dan Berthiaume

Office Depot and Alibaba.com are teaming up to bring a large online assortment of products and services to small- and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) in the U.S.

The new partnership combines Office Depot’s U.S. e-commerce platform, marketing demand engine, supply chain network, and approximately 1,350 stores with Alibaba.com’s global supplier network. According to Office Depot, this will provide its 10 million U.S. business customers with access to Alibaba’s 150,000 suppliers, catalog 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. Office Depot says it can provide next-day delivery to 99% of U.S. businesses.

The collaboration will focus on several key areas expected to provide U.S. SMBs access to a single online destination for goods and services across all product categories. During the initial launch period, the collaboration will focus on several offerings.

These include a new co-branded online destination, “Office Depot on Alibaba.com”, that provides U.S. SMBs with access to Alibaba.com’s global supplier network, as well as exclusive online and in-store offers for some of Office Depot’s products and services. In addition, Office Depot sales representative are reaching out to select SMBs, and Alibaba.com’s U.S.-based team is working with Office Depot’s 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.

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 using both online and offline marketing to reach its U.S. business customers and prospective customers.

After initial launch period, Office Depot and Alibaba.com intend 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. 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.

“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. “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.”

“American SMBs – who account for 99.7% of all companies in the U.S. – need more ways to grow and compete in today’s economy and take advantage of the enormous opportunity in B2B e-commerce,” said John Caplan, head of North America B2B at Alibaba Group. “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.”

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