TWICE put some questions to Zhang Kuo, general manager of Alibaba.com, at last week’s CES in Las Vegas.
TWICE: Alibaba is maintaining a high profile in Las Vegas during CES. How important is the U.S. market to your business?
Zhang: Alibaba.com, the B-to-B wholesale business unit for Alibaba Group, is the leading online platform for global wholesale trade, serving millions of buyers and suppliers from over 200 countries and regions around the world.
For Alibaba.com, the U.S. is one of our top markets. Our strategic focus centers around how to better serve our U.S. customers while continuing to expand the B-to-B business through new services with an industry specific approach.
Alibaba.com’s mission is “To make it easy to do business anywhere.” Our focus in the U.S. is to enable entrepreneurs and small- and medium-sized companies (SMEs) to grow their businesses through our online wholesale trading platform, and to help reduce the frictions that SMEs encounter in the process of trading. We are looking not only to encourage and help SMEs to take their businesses online, find new trading partners around the world, and be able compete on an international scale, but are also looking to make the trading process safer, faster and more cost-efficient through various value-add services.
TWICE: What other services do you offer U.S. customers besides the marketplace platform?
Zhang: There are many innovative services that Alibaba.com offers to U.S. customers: Request For Quotation (RFQ), a streamlined sourcing solution that allows you to get multiple quotes from different suppliers all in one place; live streaming, from conferences and shows, to discover new product opportunities and get ahead of the competition; Insights, an in-bound marketing platform and publication that delivers world-class industry news and trends to buyers; and a real-time translation function, launching later this month, to make it easy for suppliers and buyers to communicate despite a language barrier.
The translator is powered by the latest neural machine translation (NMT) framework for enhanced accuracy and fluency in the technical terminology, and also features text-to-speech. At launch it will translate English, Chinese, Russian and Spanish, and there are plans to include more languages depending on users’ demand.
TWICE: How are you addressing customers’ security concerns?
Zhang: Identifying trustworthy trading partners is a top challenge that SMEs face when it comes to international trading. To help address such challenges, Alibaba.com offers Multiple Safe Payment Options, and buyers can select a preferred safe online payment option from among e-checking, credit cards and T/T (bank transfer). Payments are secured by Alibaba.com’s anti-fraud system.
In addition, Alibaba.com’s free payment protection service, Trade Assurance, is designed to address customers’ security concerns and to create trust in trade by giving businesses peace of mind by providing order payment protection to the buyers. Alibaba.com will provide a fast dispute-handling process in the event of shipping or quality-related disputes. It will also refund up to 100 percent of the trade assurance amount that was agreed upon between the buyer and supplier on a contracted purchase if the order is not shipped by the date agreed upon in the contract, and/or if the products do not meet the quality requirements as set out in the contract.
The free payment protection service is currently available for all buyers who are seeking to source on Alibaba.com.
TWICE: Which technology trend will have the biggest impact on the way you do business in 2018?
Zhang: Online marketplaces like Alibaba.com completely transformed the way we do cross- border trading. In the digital world, a data-driven approach to strategic sourcing is the key to success.