Office Depot, one of the many big box stores feeling the impact from Amazon’s e-commerce dominance, announced on Monday a significant partnership with Chinese e-commerce site Alibaba.com, which will see the companies working together to better serve the needs of U.S. small to medium-sized businesses. The deal includes a co-branded e-commerce site on Alibaba.com, and will give Alibaba access to Office Depot’s customer base and sales agents. Meanwhile, Office Depot customers will be able to tap into Alibaba’s supplier network, the companies said.
The new online destination, www.alibaba.com/officedepot, will provide U.S. business customers a way to access Alibaba.com’s global supplier network, in addition to online and in-store offers for Office Depot’s products and services.
Alibaba’s network today includes more than 150,000 suppliers, its catalog of product listings and manufacturing capabilities and other tools for small to medium-sized businesses.
Office Depot’s sales team of 1,800 has relationships with more than 10 million U.S. business customers, which would then be introduced to Alibaba’s capabilities as a part of this strategic collaboration. And Alibaba’s U.S.-based team will work with Office Depot’s support staff to provide those business customers with local support, as well as a way to reach sourcing agents who can connect them to Alibaba’s global supplier base.
Both companies will additionally invest in marketing initiatives to help promote their new partnership and its benefits to their respective SMB customers.
Following the launch, the two companies plan to deepen their collaboration to include faster cross-border distribution and fulfillment offered to U.S. SMBs, by connecting Alibaba’s global logistics capabilities with Office Depot’s supply chain and distribution network. And they will both work together to help U.S. SMBs sell their products to global buyers.
The deal comes at a time when Office Depot has been shifting its business beyond office supplies sales to include more services it can sell to business owners. This collaboration fits into its larger goal of being a resource for SMBs that goes beyond office supplies.
It will also give Office Depot a means of staying relevant, as Amazon moves further into Office Depot’s original area of focus: the sale of office supplies to U.S. businesses. For example, last fall, Amazon Business Prime, the retailer’s version of Prime for business customers, added same-day and one-day shipping, among other benefits.
Office Depot today touted its own supply chain’s prowess, noting it can reach nearly 99 percent of U.S. businesses with next-day delivery, and has a network of 1,350 Office Depot and OfficeMax locations across the U.S.
“As a trusted partner to millions of businesses, our customers tell us they want more choice in the market and need an expanded set of products and services to help their businesses grow. We believe our collaboration with Alibaba.com is exactly what they are asking for,” said Gerry Smith, CEO of Office Depot, Inc., in a statement. “Leveraging Office Depot’s trusted brand, local presence, and national supply chain distribution network with Alibaba’s global supplier network and well-known capabilities in serving SMBs, U.S. businesses can now access a wide array of products and services through Office Depot and Alibaba.com’s collaboration, which will empower them to compete and thrive,” he added.