The global pandemic is still wreaking havoc on international trade, producing massive disruptions and travel restrictions all across the world. In this post, we take a deeper look at how the worldwide epidemic has impacted B2B enterprises throughout the world, as well as the issues small company owners may face in 2021, one year after the pandemic began.
An overview of COVID-19’s impact on local, small B2B companies
The global pandemic triggered a massive shift in consumer behaviour. 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+ US businesses permanently closed due to the 2020 global pandemic than in a typical year.
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. 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.
International trade and the global pandemic
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, in April 2020, a new variant emerged and claimed 28,000 lives in just one week (reported cases have since risen to around 2.3 million). Since 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.
Additionally, 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 travelling freely to carry out business meetings. The COVID-19 emergency isn’t just a humanitarian crisis but also a global economic nightmare. India is the world’s 6th largest economy and 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.
Three challenges small B2B business owners now face
Digital sales and e-commerce for large-scale purchases
While it was once assumed that e-commerce could only be used for small-ticket items, the global pandemic has encouraged buyers to also buy large-ticket items online, eliminating the need for traditional retail premises, sales assistants and cashiers. When it comes to small business owners, the digitalization of entire B2B firms has exposed a lack of digital marketing insight, expertise and awareness across most industries.
B2B companies will need to build virtual sales teams, online customer support departments and utilise data to improve their sales funnels to compete in this new digital environment and sell both small and big-ticket products.
Video and live chat now essential
Nowadays, video and live chat have become essential for e-commerce businesses to close online sales. The global pandemic made business trips, factory visits and office visits almost impossible. It was a great opportunity for B2B businesses to practise the online business model structure to reach out online to all potential customers nationwide.
B2B companies are able to nurture customer relations through video conferences and live chat services. In the B2B world, research found a 23% increase in online chat and a 43% increase in video conferences since COVID-19. This shows that customers nowadays prefer video calls instead of traditional phone calls or in-person meetings.
To thrive in 2021, B2B companies have no choice but to be comfortable using such technology and apps or risk being seen as outdated and unable to keep up with the modern, digital-first world.
Building an online presence is now a must for all businesses
A research study from Accenture showed that 46% of small businesses have invested in infrastructure to boost their online presence and deliver a virtual consumer experience.
B2B companies must invest in digital marketing right away – from offering contactless payments to publishing buying guides to educate their clients and improve online sales at the same time. Customers will continue to search for goods and services online if the global pandemic becomes a historical event rather than a present-day concern. Small business owners must implement a multi-platform customer experience rather than continue to engage in traditional marketing strategies. Developing your online presence is crucial, from applying AI to optimising your sales funnel to generating SEO content to boost your exposure in search results.
As the adage goes, difficulty breeds opportunity, and these difficulties can also breed new dynamics that spark corporate growth.
Alibaba.com and small B2B companies
As the global pandemic continues to post great challenges to small business owners, Alibaba.com is doing more to localize its services to empower B2B companies. The statistics below speak for themselves:
- 93% of B2B companies are now running some of their business online (a massive 90% increase from December 2020, with 43% using e-commerce, an 8% increase from the same period last year).
- The ongoing supply chain issues haven’t stopped international trade from growing extensively. In fact, international trade is up by 59% from December 2020.
- Small business owners within the B2B industry surpassed other industries in digitization.
Five upgraded services provided by Alibaba.com
In 2021, Alibaba.com is committed to expanding small local businesses’ business possibilities and advancing global B2B firms’ digital transformation. Alibaba.com continues to improve its sellers’ performance in international commerce and high-quality, customer service – throughout the world – via education, digital awareness, online possibilities and localised assistance.
Alibaba.com provides the opportunity for sellers to exhibit at online events, such as the March Expo and Super September, which are annual promotional exhibitions. When compared to average performance, one Alibaba.com event showed a 50% boost in business possibilities, demonstrating the value of attending and participating in virtual exhibits.
Alibaba.com will conduct ten additional category-specific online trade events to help vendors and small enterprises advertise themselves and connect with international customers. These events could be used by B2B enterprises to market their products, services and brand on a global scale.
Do you want to participate in an online trade show?
Please read the recent article on Virtual trade shows; a complete guide.
Global Gold Suppliers Membership Upgrade: A brand-new onboarding package was introduced by Alibaba.com in an effort to upgrade its Global Gold Suppliers membership. The aforementioned upgrade involves an intelligent tool set up 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 gain more exposure on the platform – as much as 15%. As a result, users can optimize their conversion rate by posting professional product photos.*
*Terms and conditions may apply. Speak to our Alibaba.com consultant for more details.
Localised team support
A specialised official service team will collaborate with account teams to deliver personalised support to suppliers in order to help them grow their companies. Alibaba.com will offer over 200 training sessions to help small company owners understand e-commerce and Alibaba’s digital capabilities.
Buyers will have a better buying experience if new vendors are educated on the best ways to market their goods and services. These interactions with experts and peers present sellers with priceless learning opportunities.
Supply chain and payment services
During a global pandemic, the supply chain is a concern for businesses to export their goods to other nations. Travel restrictions cause a negative and ongoing impact on the supply chain – especially during a lockdown period.
Alibaba.com has formed a number of strategic alliances with local banks, business partners and logistics service providers to assist sellers in pivoting through difficult times and continuing to import and export items throughout the world.
In addition, Alibaba.com will launch Trade Assurance, a payment instrument and service that will allow customers to make safe, online payments in a variety of marketplaces.
If you are interested in knowing more about overcoming shipping challenges during a global pandemic, read our article, Managing international shipping in the time of COVID-19.
*Only available in selected markets. Speak to our Alibaba.com consultant for more details.
The key element to Alibaba.com’s global success is educating its sellers. A curriculum team, composed of industry professionals and partners, creates instructional materials on subjects ranging from e-commerce principles to pricing dynamics and building digital advertising strategies to attract relevant customers and generate leads.
Learn how to improve sales by emphasising product benefits, taking high-quality professional images, and optimising your internet shop. Small company owners may prosper even amid a worldwide epidemic by educating sellers on the best ways to manage this new digital world.
Alibaba.com empowers B2B business owners
As the global pandemic continues to hinder travel and international trade, and many business activities have to be conducted online, small business owners can seize key opportunities in this challenging time to sell and succeed online by positioning their business as an industry leader. Previously, this was easier said than done. However, nowadays, with the power of technology and the ever-increasing online population, businesses that invest in digital marketing and venture into selling online are set to strengthen their online presence and be on the journey to achieve business success
The Chinese e-commerce market, which is expected to reach $3 trillion by 2024, is a good example, as it demonstrates that the future of B2B international trade will greatly depend on digitalization.
To seize the opportunity in this special moment in history, B2B businesses can unlock their potential by leveraging the Alibaba.com platform, which enables its users to reach a global audience and easily promote their products online, while enjoying the ongoing support, education and guidance offered to Alibaba.com’s wide range of sellers and international buyers.
**All information extracted from Alibaba.com Business Blogs