Michael Lee, the director of global marketing for Alibaba.com, stressed Monday his firm’s desire to partner with North American B2B companies, rather than challenge them for market share. Lee, a keynoter at this week’s ASI Power Summit Canada in Whistler, British Columbia, told conference attendees that Alibaba is focused on building trust, facilitating sourcing and expanding business opportunities abroad.
“Part of our plan in North America is to grow awareness,” he said. “One of our focuses is to make trading more effective and efficient so U.S. and Canadian companies can sell into the Chinese market.”
Lee outlined Alibaba.com’s trade assurance program, which uses big data to help buyers determine which manufacturers are reputable. The program runs reports offering more sophisticated measures than just a credit history to rank top manufacturers. “This is a 360-degree view that allows us to endorse manufacturers,” Lee said. “Buyers can know if a manufacturer has been sued, for example, and whether a manufacturer works with a big brand that already vetted them.”
On the issue of patent and copyright infringement, Lee said that Alibaba has a process in place to help identify offenders, though he conceded cases are often challenging and the system “is not perfect.” Lee also acknowledged that Alibaba’s sites are platforms and won’t necessarily intervene or accept full responsibility when defective products are shipped. “We don’t touch those products, but we can help facilitate some resolution,” he said.
Lee identified two trends Alibaba is seeing on its sites. The first is that orders are tending to be smaller and more frequent. The second is that more international companies are engaging in business dealings. “We’re seeing an increasing number of global companies on our platforms – it’s up to about 30% that are not from China,” Lee said.
Following his session at the ASI Power Summit Canada, in an interview with Counselor, Lee admitted that Alibaba may pursue acquisitions of ad specialty companies in the near and long term if the situation was right. He implied, though, that no purchases were imminent. Lee did speak, however, to the great potential of the ad specialty market, especially if industry companies are willing to sell – not just source – products in Asia. Click here to see Lee’s full interview.