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Alibaba.com to help 'unsung heroes' of small business tap vast e-commerce cash pile

Julia La Roche
Correspondent

Alibaba Group (BABA) wants to help more small and medium sized U.S.-based businesses access the global market through Alibaba.com. 

The platform, the first business started by Jack Ma back in 1999, is a cross-border business-to-business (B2B) unit of the Chinese e-commerce giant. To drum up business and awareness in the U.S., Alibaba plans to host its first-ever "B2B Tuesday" in the U.S., and will continue doing so every week. 

B2B Tuesday will serve as a "significant awareness program" for the platform, which helps "match the world's supply and demand," according to John Caplan, president of North America B2B and Alibaba.com. 

"What we are doing is we are helping small businesses, we are recognizing small businesses, and we are creating the content tools and learning to help a manufacturer, a distributor — the unsung heroes of the U.S. economy — get onto the Aibaba.com platform and source or sell to the world," Caplan told Yahoo Finance. 

The idea is to help make it easier to access more opportunities in the $23.9 trillion global B2B e-commerce sector — which is six times the size of the business to consumer (B2C) market. Caplan called that fact "underreported" from his perspective. 

B2B Tuesday will bring together "other like-minded organizations" and promote small and medium B2B businesses by featuring a weekly series of "success stories, in-person events, new platform offerings, educational content, and more,” he added.

“In the U.S., importantly, which is the fastest-growing market globally for new supply joining the platform, we’re seeing small businesses here really eager to sell to the world, to globalize their businesses,” according to Caplan.

Small business stays optimistic

A company logo of Alibaba.com is displayed at its Hong Kong office March 16, 2010. Alibaba.com, China's largest e-commerce company, posted a 49 percent rise in quarterly net profit as revenue growth accelerated on the back of strong customer additions. REUTERS/Bobby Yip (CHINA - Tags: BUSINESS)

To mark the occasion, Alibaba.com also released its inaugural U.S. Small and Medium Businesses (SMB) Confidence Survey, a gauge of B2B sentiment.

The survey of 5,000 small and medium U.S. businesses, both Alibaba.com customers and non-customers engaged in the sourcing and selling goods, showed that 62% are optimistic about the economy. In contrast, only 4% see the risk of a downturn.

The key takeaways from the survey include U.S. SMBs feeling confident about the economy, planning to hire new employees, looking to digitize their businesses and do more business globally. Those findings are consistent with other gauges that reflect small business resilience in the face of an uncertain outlook.

According to Caplan, 59% of SMBs already participate in some cross-border trade. 

"I think that's a statistic that most people in the United States haven't been paying attention to, and we think is a real opportunity to help U.S. small businesses continue to grow," Caplan said. 

What's more, two-thirds of the businesses surveyed have been doing B2B online for less than five years, which presents a new opportunity to tap into a massive market. 

"There is a new opportunity for them, he said. Given that B2C “is pretty well developed... the B2B e-commerce market is new to most small businesses,” Caplan added.

Alibaba.com, which saw revenues rise 37% year-over-year, does business in 190 countries. Small businesses pay a single annual software as a service (SaaS) fee, and don’t pay a portion of sales to Alibaba.com. 

Julia La Roche is a Correspondent at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.

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