Office Depot has partnered with China's Alibaba.com, a pairing that will result in a new co-branded online destination, "Office Depot on Alibaba.com," aimed at small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), according to a press release emailed to Retail Dive.
To promote the collaboration, Office Depot's sales force is reaching out to relevant SMBs from among its more than 10 million business customers to explain the benefits of the partnership, while Alibaba.com's U.S.-based team is working with Office Depot's customer support staff to provide local support and sourcing experts that can help customers engage with Alibaba's global network of more than 150,000 suppliers.
The companies eventually plan to sell their products worldwide through Alibaba.com, and also plan to enhance global cross-border distribution and fulfillment capabilities by leveraging their respective supply networks for faster delivery, the release stated.
One week after a fourth quarter earnings report showed increasing strength in services amid lower sales of traditional products, Office Depot has entered a partnership that could further recast its image in the market.
The retailer had fallen after Amazon disrupted its traditional approach to the industry, and a merger with Staples that was designed to reclaim more of that market was struck down in 2016. Office Depot has since tried to rebound by focusing heavily on supporting small businesses, exemplified by its launch of the BizBox toolkit and its 2017 acquisition of IT services firm CompuCom.
Teaming with Alibaba presents Office Depot with a tremendous opportunity to strengthen its ability to sell into China and other markets where it may not have as strong a reach. Additionally, SMB customers in the U.S. will have a much longer list of potential suppliers to choose from. Alibaba has a lot to gain from the partnership, too, as Office Depot is now a channel into the U.S. SMB market.
"American SMBs — who account for 99.7% of all companies in the United States — need more ways to grow and compete in today's economy and take advantage of the enormous opportunity in B2B e-commerce. ... With Office Depot, we will be able to offer SMBs more choice, greater access, and further opportunities to grow," John Caplan, head of North American B2B at Alibaba Group, said in a statement.