The B2B food export industry has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, it has experienced many ups and downs in the past two years, due to supply chain disruptions, global lockdowns, and other COVID-related issues. As many economies in the world are opening up, now is the best time for the B2B food industry to expand its business through online opportunities.
The rapid digitalisation of the B2B trade has made it easier for food wholesalers to reach buyers from around the world. In this challenging time, how does Alibaba.com help Malaysia’s B2B food exporters meet millions of buyers around the world with the power of a B2B marketplace platform? In this article, we will cover everything you need to know, including the uncertainties, challenges, and trends in the food industry, so that you can kickstart your online export business.
Table of Contents
Uncertainties in the Food Industry
The pandemic has created significant uncertainties in the food industry, including:
- Different regions continuing to go in and out of lockdowns intended to contain the virus
- Many regions have found significant decreases in food and beverage export in 2020
- Unexpected increase in demand for some types of food in this pandemic
- Employees’ health has become a major concern in the food and beverage industry
- The research found that spending money on groceries more than dining and food service caused by this pandemic
- People panic buying food, causing many retail grocery stores to struggle to keep up with the global demand
Challenges B2B Food Export Faced during the Pandemic
The uncertainties caused by the pandemic have posed a few large challenges for the wholesale food and beverage industry to overcome. Here are a few of the most notable challenges that SMEs in the B2B food export industry have faced from the start of the pandemic until today.
Many factories have experienced shutdowns at different times over the course of the pandemic. Some factories might still be closed today. However, in Malaysia, most food companies are allowed to operate. When factories are shut down, food production can’t carry on as normal, contributing to shortages.
Supply Chain Shortages
With many factories shut down and food production operations halted, the pandemic has caused food supply chain disruptions. Because different regions produce different types of food, supply chain disruptions have occurred at different times over the last year.
At the beginning of the pandemic, food safety had to be seriously assessed because it was unclear whether COVID-19 could spread through food. This incident contributed to supply chain disruptions for a short period.
While the pandemic did not cause any major food security issues that left people hungry on a global scale, and most of the world is returning to normal, there are still isolated supply chain disruptions.
To avoid the spread of COVID-19, many restaurants were shut down, and only take out was allowed in many parts of the world. These changes in the restaurant industry affected the demand for food products and altered the way customers buy food. Although it directly affected B2C markets rather than the B2B market, the effect still comes back to food wholesalers. Grocery stores became busier as the demand increased rapidly, and B2B food supplies saw a shift in their clientele.
There were disruptions with shipping throughout the pandemic. Both air freight and ocean freight encountered disruption issues.
Ocean freight saw a spike in demand and the supply was not able to cope. For airfreight, there was not enough air cargo space to meet the shipping demands of global trade. In addition, travel restrictions greatly reduced the number of commercial flights at various locations throughout the pandemic.
According to supply and demand rules, prices rise when supply falls and demand remains constant. Prices have risen due to scarcity and a reduction in the supply of food products during the pandemic.
Opportunities in B2B Food Supply Market after the Pandemic
Major advancements in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and treating those infected with the virus have been made, thanks to the efforts of scientists and medical professionals. This outcome has allowed the world to revert to a more normal state. Restaurants are slowly opening up to normal capacity, and the foodservice industry is beginning to flourish once again. Of course, the pandemic has not ended, but now is a good time for food wholesalers to explore opportunities and export to many countries.
9 Reasons to Start Selling Food on a B2B E-Commerce Platform
1. Digitalisation Is the ‘New Normal’
Many years ago, business digitalisation was introduced to many industries, but many businesses still insisted on practising traditional business models. Digitalisation used to be an optional strategy for many businesses. However, with many in-person business operations being halted due to the pandemic, online trading and exporting have become the new norm.
B2C e-commerce marketplaces were already very popular, so the digitalisation of the B2B sector was a natural progression. Digitalisation makes things convenient for sellers, and customers prefer online buying nowadays.
2. Larger Reach
When you create a storefront on a B2B e-commerce platform, you can reach a much larger audience not only in your own country but also overseas. For example, Alibaba.com has over 17 million buyers from over 190 countries around the world who are looking to source items for their businesses.
Buyers come to these platforms with the intent to buy, making it easy for sellers to connect with them. Buyers will seek out what you offer. In other words, it is easier to sell to these warm leads from a B2B e-commerce platform than to sell to the cold leads.
3. Save Time with Automation
Many B2B e-commerce platforms nowadays are equipped with automation tools, helping food wholesalers save time and redirect their resources to more important tasks. Alibaba.com, for example, offers tools for automatic product listing. Some other popular automation tools take care of advertising, lead generation, translation, and more.
4. Customer Relationship Management Tools
Customer relationship management (CRM) is important for wholesalers to understand their customers, communicate directly with them, and keep track of who has purchased and who has not. Most innovative B2B e-commerce platforms are equipped with CRM tools.
Powerful CRM tools help food sellers understand the status of different leads so that they know which one they should continue to nurture. Moreover, these tools provide insights into your customers’ backgrounds. You can even better understand their cultures when dealing with them.
Make sure the B2B e-commerce marketplace you select allows you to manage customer relationships.
5. Discover Brands Online
Brand awareness is important and essential for businesses today. Improving and expanding your online presences is the best way to increase your brand awareness. And you can do that with most B2B e-commerce marketplaces.
You can incorporate your brand’s personal touch when creating your digital storefront in the B2B e-commerce marketplace. List your products and add your brand logo and other information about your brand. This process gives life to your brand, and buyers will be more inclined to buy from you.
6. Improve Discoverability
Most B2B e-commerce platforms come with internal search engines to let visitors easily search for the products they are looking for. When you properly optimise your product listings with the appropriate keywords, your ideal customers will be able to find you.
There are two approaches you can take to maximise your discoverability on an e-commerce marketplace: search engine optimisation (SEO) and search engine marketing (paid adverts). Running adverts and optimising your product listings to rank high on the platform’s search result pages will bring more traffic to your digital storefront and product offerings.
7. Demand Forecasting Tools
Demand forecasting tools enable you to make data-driven business decisions based on purchase trends, inventory levels, and future sales potential to maximise revenue. Most B2B e-commerce marketplaces are equipped with demand forecasting tools. They help you study and forecast market demands.
Demand forecasting tools have been especially important throughout the pandemic when there is so much uncertainty. It is nice to have guidance from experts and data that would be hard to obtain on your own.
8. Easy Exporting
Exporters face many challenges, such as language barriers and varying international trade laws. Tapping into a new market can be difficult if your new international audience is unfamiliar with your brand.
B2B e-commerce marketplaces are equipped with tools such as auto-translators and more to overcome these challenges when dealing with global customers and navigate exporting like a pro.
9. Dedicated Support and Training
Growing your wholesale food business online may seem overwhelming. Luckily, most B2B e-commerce platforms provide personalised support or dedicated account managers to assist you along the way. They also provide digital learning materials for exporters to follow and kickstart their online exporting business.
Alibaba.com offers sellers unlimited access to webinar replays, a learning centre, a complete business blog, industry reports, and e-commerce playbooks.
How Alibaba.com Supports Malaysian B2B Food Exporters
Alibaba.com, the best B2B marketplace platform for Malaysian SMEs, has a wide variety of valuable features for food wholesalers. These tools are geared towards helping sellers reach new buyers both locally and around the globe.
Customisable Digital Storefronts
As I mentioned earlier, creating a digital storefront helps increase brand awareness and online presence. With Alibaba.com, you can fully customise your brand’s digital storefront with the help of API and integrations. Listing your product in your digital storefront with a piece of information will help buyers better understand your products.
Innovative Communication Tools
Communication is important for sellers when dealing with customers. The language barrier is one barrier that hinders exporters when it comes to online exporting.
Alibaba.com’s team understands the concerns of most of the buyers and has offered innovative communication and relationship management tools. You or your team can stay on top of all your leads, understand their needs through their profiles, and facilitate a seamless communication experience with your potential buyers.
Every transaction carried out on Alibaba.com is backed by the Trade Assurance program. It protects both buyers and sellers and prevents scams.
Alibaba.com’s Trade Assurance program ensures that every buyer receives the items that they purchased within the specified time frame promised when the order was placed. This program also ensures that the quality of the product matches the advertisement.
Moreover, buyers can rest assured that every transaction that takes place through the platform is legitimate. Alibaba.com accepts dozens of payment methods, so you are sure to find one that works for both you and your buyers.
Support for Cross-Border Trade
If you are a B2B food seller looking to expand your operations into other countries, Alibaba.com is a great platform to explore and utilise. Some of Alibaba.com’s tools for exporters include auto-translation and automatic currency conversions, helping you overcome language barriers and currency confusion.
Smart Product Posting and Dynamic Pricing
Smart product posting allows you to automatically import product listings from other platforms or databases. Dynamic pricing, another similar feature, allows you to set different prices for different customers, which puts more power in your hands as a seller. These tools help food sellers who have a presence on many platforms create smart product posting and be more flexible with setting dynamic pricing for different customer groups.
Large Buyer Base
Alibaba.com has over 17 million active buyers from around the world. The platform receives about 300,000+ product enquiries each day, especially for the food and beverage industry. Malaysian exporters can easily find a large target audience. These target audience groups will be very interested in your products. Using this platform is better than hunting for buyers in a large, untargeted pool of customers.
Sell on Alibaba.com
Alibaba.com is the best B2B Marketplace platform in the world, especially for Malaysians who are looking to take their business to the next level. The Alibaba.com platform is equipped with powerful tools that connect you with high-paying customers, both near and far. Additionally, all transactions are protected by Alibaba.com Trade Assurance Program.
You might still have questions about the Alibaba.com B2B Marketplace platform. Don’t worry, contact our dedicated sales assistants to have a free consultation. You are encouraged to join our webinar to find out how to do online export thru Alibaba.com with Exabytes.