Never heard and seen the behemoth in the real world? Don’t worry, because now, you can find it in the digital world. It is known as Alibaba, the B2B behemoth from Hangzhou, China with billions of sales, more than Amazon and eBay combined.
It started in 1999, by a little eCommerce company in Hangzhou, China, at a time when only a few million people were online in China. Led by Jack Ma, they started Alibaba.com, a global wholesale marketplace connecting buyers and sellers. Alibaba.com grew big enough for the whole world to notice. It handles billions of dollars a year in transactions, increasingly acting as a bridge between mainland China, North America, Europe, and the rest of the world. Alibaba follows the supplier aggregator model (much like many B2B marketplaces of the 90s) working to ease the pain of global sourcing.
According to David Moth of EConsultancy, Alibaba has 231 million active buyers, and over 11.3 billion orders flowed through the company’s eCommerce platforms in 2013. An average buyer makes about 49 purchases a year, and the total gross merchandise volume of Alibaba’s three main consumer retail marketplaces is roughly $248 billion. Alibaba has B2B and B2C has suppliers in more than 20 countries. The scene continues to play out in US markets as well. Alibaba’s global IPO was the world’s largest ever at $25 billion. The United States has more than 7 billion B2B customers on Alibaba, and about 1.5 million in the U.K. Ben Popper of The Verge writes that in 2013, Alibaba recorded $240 billion in sales. During 2018, Alibaba.com even recorded sales for about $30 billion in a single day, in an event that similar to Black Friday.
Alibaba's meteoric rise can be attributed to its focus on growing its enormous supplier base, which targets Chinese and other Asian sellers that Amazon and other marketplaces don't. In other words, Alibaba's B2B marketplace has acted as a gateway to China and the growing economy's enormous capacity to produce goods that the world wants. To cater to this global demand, Alibaba does everything it can to build more trust, opening the gates wider to the world. This is evidenced in initiatives like business verification, factory inspections, and stringent demands on the quality of products.
Alibaba’s B2B stance is such that it has also led to offshoot opportunities for many wholesalers and distributors. For some wholesalers and manufacturers, it may be beneficial to take advantage of this resource to access to global marketplaces across the world.