Alibaba on Tuesday introduced merchandise transportation, financing and virtual trade show tools to assist U.S. small and mid-sized businesses during the COVID-19 outbreak.
With Alibaba Freight, merchants can compare prices for air and ocean freight within the company's e-commerce platform. Per the company's statement, the platform allows merchants to arrange their bulk shipments with the ability to compare, book, manage, and track ocean and air freight in real time.
Alibaba's Payment Terms allows qualified buyers to order items and pay for them up to 60 days after they have shipped, and the retailer's Online Trade Shows USA virtually connects American manufacturers and wholesalers with buyers, according to a company press release. The program will feature more than 20 shows in the next 120 days.
Before the coronavirus pandemic upended the retail sector, Alibaba made efforts to expand its reach in the U.S. Last year, the e-commerce giant launched an English-language site and rolled out a U.S. site to help small businesses to connect with vendors and international buyers. In November, the company reported its highest "Singles Day" sales record, with the U.S. being among the top five countries selling goods through the platform.
In its announcement, the platform noted that small businesses can't typically access the international supply chain financing programs that larger competitors use because they are often required to pay in full upfront. The company's new payment terms feature is aimed at solving that issue, and is part of its other financial services that work to help buyers manage their cash and fund their inventory costs.
"While [small and mid-sized businesses] often have difficulty getting trade financing from banks, Alibaba.com's Payment Terms provides the working capital they need to fuel their growth," John Caplan, president of North America and Europe of Alibaba.com, said in a statement. "This is possible for Alibaba.com because we know the buyers and sellers on our platform, and financing is offered for transactions that we know are real."
Other companies have also introduced tech, funding and money management resources to help small businesses during and beyond the coronavirus pandemic. Among others, Facebook recently pledged $100 million in grants to small businesses, eBay pledged $100 million along with tools and mentorship to help merchants transition their businesses online, Builder.ai introduced pre-packaged apps for small businesses, and Shopify rolled out new and updated pay installment and money management tools for companies.
Alibaba also joins Shoptalk and the Toy Association in trying to organize virtual events. During Alibaba's virtual gatherings, U.S. manufacturers and wholesalers can promote their businesses, and buyers can connect and place orders with suppliers, Alibaba noted in its statement.