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Seven months into the shutdown, how are SMBs doing?

In December of 2019, Alibaba.com conducted a deep dive into the US B2B community, by commissioning the first Alibaba.com US Small and Medium Business (SMB) Confidence Survey of 5,000 US-based small businesses within B2B on their sentiments around digitization and globalization.

The world has dramatically changed since December. After a roller-coaster year with COVID-19 affecting everyone in some way, we thought it was time for a second analysis. Have US SMBs pivoted to digital? Are they conducting more or less international trade? Are they hiring new employees to support their operations? As a follow up to the first survey, we commissioned a second survey of 5,015 US B2B SMBs to understand how they are feeling and what they are thinking for the future.

Today, we are sharing some key insights from our survey:

  • SMBs pivoted to digital: 93% of B2B companies are now conducting some portion of their business online, up from 90% in December, and 43% are using ecommerce, and 8% increase over the same time period.
  • SMBs are finding opportunities internationally: even with supply chain disruptions during the pandemic, 63% of B2B companies report conducting some amount of cross-border B2B trade, up 59% in December.
  • SMB manufacturers surpassed other industries in digitization: in December, US manufacturers’ online B2B trade volume lagged all other industries, except construction. The latest Alibaba.com survey finds that amid the pandemic, manufacturers’ online B2B trade increased 8% — twice the rate of the overall 4% increase in all industries for the same period.

The Alibaba.com Digitization Sprint for US Manufacturers

US manufacturers are known for their advanced technological production capabilities, but have historically been slow to adopt online sourcing and selling tools. With manufacturers now rapidly turning to digital channels, Alibaba.com is launching its Digitization Sprint for US Manufacturers. The four-week program is designed to accelerate the digitization of these businesses’ online marketing, selling, and sourcing and ensure their long-term online success. The Alibaba.com team is bringing together experts and an ecosystem of collaborators to give manufacturers a four-week masterclass in getting digital and going global.

The Digitization Sprint for US Manufacturers offers tailored sessions to help select SMB manufacturers master the basics of ecommerce to take their businesses to the next level.

Participants will learn from industry experts how to reach new customers with effective ecommerce strategies, drive high-quality traffic from social media, boost search visibility with SEO and digital marketing, and more.

Through the program, manufacturing companies will gain access to:

  • Curriculum from Alibaba.com’s team, industry leaders, and partners on digitizing their business from the basics of ecommerce like jargon and acronyms to tangible skills and tips on digital advertising, taking quality product photos and leveraging social media to build your brand and reach B2B customers.
  • Coaching on succeeding in the digital economy during weekly modules and during tailored sessions from partners and experts in ecommerce for manufacturers like the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, Brooklyn Navy Yard, and ecommerce consultant, Curt Anderson.
  • Community through a private LinkedIn group and roundtable discussions with experts and peers for ongoing education and shared experience.

The inaugural Digitization Sprint will kick off in mid-November with limited spots available. Interested leaders at manufacturing companies with fewer than 500 employees can apply to join the initiative.

Additional data and insights from the second Alibaba.com US B2B SMB Survey can be found in our press release — and even more will be shared on future B2B Tuesdays.


How are SMBs feeling about the economy? We recently surveyed 5,000 US B2B SMBs to find out! Watch our fireside chat to hear ecommerce experts and US-based manufacturers breakdown the survey results and reveal all the key insights — from levels of international trade to levels of digital adoption. You can watch our previous fireside chats here.

This week's #B2BTuesday Tip:

Leverage technology to augment the expertise of you workers, not the other way around, and empower them to come up with solutions.

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