Alibaba.com, the B2B business unit of Alibaba Group, announced the results of its Alibaba.com U.S. B2B Small and Medium Business (SMB) Survey and launched a new Digitization Sprint for U.S. SMB manufacturers digitizing – a traditionally analog segment of SMBs that has been digitizing at twice the rate of other industries during the pandemic.

Following its inaugural survey, which was disseminated in January 2020, Alibaba.com conducted a second survey of 5,015 U.S. B2B SMBs with the following key findings:

  • SMBs accelerated their pivot to digital: 93% of B2B companies are now conducting some portion of their business online. Up from 90% in December, and 43% are utilizing ecommerce, an 8% increase over the same time period.
  • SMBs are finding opportunities internationally: even with supply chain disruptions during the pandemic, 63% of B2B companies report conducting some amount of cross border B2B trade, up from 59% in December.
  • SMB manufacturers surpassed other industries in digitization: amid the pandemic, manufacturers’ online B2B trade increased 8% – twice the rate of the overall 4% increase in all industries for the same period and tied with retail as the industries with the most digital growth. In December, U.S. manufacturers’ online B2B trade volume lagged all other industries except construction but have now passed multiple industries in their pivot to digital.

“We were happy to see the increasing digitization of US B2B companies and that many are increasing trade despite the pandemic, showing the resilience and grit of American business owners and entrepreneurs,” said John Caplan, President of North America and Europe of Alibaba.com. “Our research finds that digitization is no longer a nice-to-have, but a must-have for companies in every industry to bridge from surviving to thriving in the next era of business.”

Additional Highlights from the Alibaba.com U.S. B2B SMB Survey

SMBs are Optimistic in Their Business and Recovery

  • SMBs are optimistic about their business with 85% saying they are confident about the future of their business.
  • The majority of SMBs (62%) managed through the pandemic, maintaining or increasing their business when compared to 2019 levels.

Even More U.S. B2B SMBs Digitized During the Pandemic and Are Hiring to Support their Online Growth

  • 56% hired and retained new staff to support their e-commerce operations since the start of the pandemic. 79% plan to hire employees over the next year to support their increased online business.
  • 42% of respondents saw increases in online B2B transactions in the past six months. More than three-quarters (75%) finding increased demand for e-commerce marketplaces such as Alibaba.com.
  • Online B2B companies show far more confidence than offline: 86% of those doing business online expressing optimism in the future of their business compared with 68% of those who are not yet doing business online.

Digital Acceleration is Driving Global Business

  • Cross border business is increasing in importance for B2B companies. Making up an average of 25% of their business – an increase from 17% in December.
  • Respondents said key benefits of eCommerce include helping them access international markets (24%). Built-in translation services that help communicate with trading partners in different languages (16%).

SMB Manufacturers are Confident and Accelerating to Catch Up Digitally

  • Manufacturers over-indexed in investments in e-commerce during COVID-19: more than two-thirds (68%) of manufacturing businesses hired new staff to support online trade compared with 56% overall.

The Alibaba.com U.S. Small and Medium Business (SMB) Survey: Research Methodology

Alibaba.com commissioned leading global research firm, Ipsos, to conduct the second Alibaba.com U.S. B2B Small and Medium Business (SMB) Survey on behalf of Alibaba.com as a follow up to the December 2019 survey. The sample of 5,015 was collected using a double opt in online panel sample and conducted anonymously from September 4 – 20, 2020. The survey targeted decision-makers at U.S. companies that buy or sell physical goods and materials with other businesses. The study has an overall margin of error of ±1.39% at the 95% confidence level.

Additional data, analysis and insights from the second Alibaba.com U.S. SMB B2B Survey will be shared in future B2B Today content and events.

Alibaba.com’s Digitization Sprint for U.S. Manufacturers

According to IBISWorld, there are 565,537 manufacturing businesses in the U.S. According to SCORE, an organization focused on mentoring U.S. small businesses, 98.6% of American manufacturing companies are small businesses, and three-quarters (75.3%) of those businesses have fewer than 20 employees.

U.S. manufacturers are well known for their technologically advanced production capabilities. However, until recently, they have been slower than other industries to adopt online sourcing and selling tools according to Alibaba.com’s survey. With manufacturers now rapidly turning to digital channels, Alibaba.com is launching its Digitization Sprint for U.S. Manufacturers. With the tagline “Let’s Get Digital,” the program accelerates the digitization of these businesses’ online marketing, selling and sourcing and ensure their long-term success. Alibaba offers this program to qualified manufacturers at no cost. The Alibaba.com team is bringing together experts and their ecosystem of collaborators, including the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, Brooklyn Navy Yard and manufacturing e-commerce expert Curt Anderson, to give manufacturers digitizing a four-week masterclass in getting digital and going global.

Manufacturers Digitizing 

“We were delighted to see in our research that manufacturing businesses are catching on and looking for ways to ride new waves of digital opportunity,” said Caplan. “U.S. manufacturers have huge potential to grow their online business and emerge from this pandemic better positioned for the future. Our first-ever Digitization Sprint will give manufacturers the curriculum, coaching, and community they need to accelerate their digital skills and access the $23.9 trillion global B2B ecommerce opportunity.”

Through the program, select manufacturing companies will gain access to:

  • Curriculum from Alibaba.com’s team, industry leaders and partners on topics ranging from understanding the fundamentals of e-commerce like marketplace structure and pricing dynamics to learning tangible skills like leveraging digital advertising to generate leads, taking quality photos for product listings and digital storefronts and even leveraging social media to build their brand and reach new customers.
  • Coaching on succeeding in the digital economy during weekly modules and during tailored sessions from partners and experts in e-commerce for manufacturers like the Brooklyn Chamber of CommerceBrooklyn Navy Yard and e-commerce consultantCurt Anderson.
  • Community through a private LinkedIn group and roundtable discussions. Manufacturers digitizing with experts and peers for ongoing education and shared experience.

The inaugural Alibaba.com Digitization Sprint for U.S. Manufacturers will kick off in mid-November with limited spots available. Interested leaders at manufacturing companies with fewer than 500 employees can apply for their companies to join the initiative at alibaba.com/digitalsprint

Wrapping It Up 

Lastly, thank you for taking the time to read this post on Manufacturers Digitizing. 

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