Strong consumer demand, rising prices and supply chain disruptions have become a daily part of U.S. retailing, prompting businesses to seek out creative logistics solutions that are reliable, cost efficient and responsive to present conditions.
The short term turbulence upsetting the supply chain operations in the U.S. and abroad could also prove to be longer-term challenges, requiring retailers to rethink how they manage their supply chains, from sourcing to order fulfillment.
Retailers have engaged in frontloading and forward buying in an attempt to ensure inventory is plentiful as they head toward the 2021 holiday season. The National Retail Federation (NRF) has reported a record number of imports this year — more than two million TEUS (twenty foot equivalent units) per month have flowed through ports this year, with February the lone exception. With this volume, how SMBs can smartly access their sources is the key.
Many retailers have abandoned just-in-time (JIT) supply chain practices after they realized they lacked the capacity to respond to unexpected spikes in demand. Reimagining supply chain operations to be more customer-focused while simultaneously cost effective and efficient has become one of the major challenges of the time.
The U.S. Census Bureau reports that four in every ten small businesses are experiencing domestic supplier delays, and shipping costs have reportedly jumped more than 250 percent since last year, according to Bloomberg. “There are also indications that sourcing for Black Friday and the holiday shopping season are adding heavy strain to supply chains.”said John Caplan, president of Alibaba.com, the B2B business of Alibaba in North America and Europe.
Turn Sourcing Challenges into Opportunities
Sourcing products has become increasingly complex over the years, requiring a high level of expertise. The situation is even more challenging for small- and medium-sized enterprises that often do not have a budget that meets the minimum order quantities (MOQ) needed to obtain goods at competitive price points. This becomes even more complicated when retailers seek product customization to differentiate their offerings from other products sold in the market.
As a global B2B ecommerce platform, Alibaba.com provides retailers with convenient access to a vast variety of manufacturers and wholesalers through its website and mobile app. It also offers different types of products and fulfillment methods , including ready-to-ship items, flexibility in order customization, low MOQ, and Dropshipping solutions that allow retailers to seamlessly import products to their ecommerce storefronts, e.g., on Shopify and WooCommerce.
Virtual Sourcing Tools
One of the most challenging aspects of finding new suppliers in the past year is not being able to meet with them in person. Alibaba.com has introduced digital exhibition and sourcing technologies and tools to facilitate business buyer and seller communication, interaction and due diligence without the need for costly and time-consuming in-person visits and travel.
Those features include live video chats and on-demand trending videos allowing business buyers to hear directly from suppliers and manufacturers about their capabilities, qualifications, facilities, products and insights, as well as Virtual Reality Showrooms for buyers to experience full-scale showrooms and assembly lines from the comfort of their own homes using immersive 360° virtual reality technology.
Global Logistics for SMBs
Small and medium-sized retailers have often found the handling of international logistics a daunting task. Alibaba.com, through services such as its On-Time Delivery Service*, Duty Paid Program and established logistics partners provides transparency into the logistics process, access to space to make sure that goods move from one point to another throughout the chain and certainty around areas of concern, such as quantities and delivery schedules. Alibaba.com’s trade assurance policy also offers order and payment protection including free claim support within 30 days.
Alibaba.com’s duty paid service takes the hassle out of complex border processes and replaces it with a door-to-door solution. Finally, it addresses the concern of finding vessel space to move goods to ports when shipping containers are in short supply heading into Christmas.
Super September at Alibaba.com
As U.S. B2B small and medium-sized businesses quickly digitize and look to diversify their supply chains, overcome the many challenges of the pandemic, and tap into new sources for growth, Alibaba.com is offering its biggest sale (up to 40% off) event of the year, Super September, Third-party suppliers on the platform are running specials to help small businesses get started and grow through B2B ecommerce, in addition to heavy discounts on logistics solutions.
*On-Time Delivery service is applicable on select products only and subject to Terms & Conditions.