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Online marketplaces come calling for small and medium businesses

Over 100 Australian small businesses exhibited their wares at Melbournes Convention and Exhibition Centre last Friday and Saturday, hoping to attract the interest of some of the biggest online sellers operating on Alibabas Taobao platform in China.

Hosted by Alibaba, the e-commerce expo was the overseas retail giants first major local event since it officially opened an office in Melbourne in February and indicates a ramping up of its efforts to enlist Australian sellers to its ecosystem of e-commerce platforms, which include C2C platform Taobao and B2C sites Tmall and Tmall Global.

Over 1300 Australian brands currently sell through Tmall and Tmall Global, but that number could increase exponentially, as Alibaba now turns its attention to small and medium businesses.

“We know most companies in Australia are small and medium-sized. They approached us and wanted us to help them…So this expo is really a unique event. We designed it for small business owners who are keen to access and succeed in the China market,” Zhou said.

This puts Alibaba in the company of Amazon, Catch and MyDeal, which are all looking to get local businesses – and small and medium retailers in particular – signed up to their platforms.

In fact, on the same day that Alibaba’s e-commerce expo took place, Amazon announced its own upcoming event for those interested in selling on Amazon Marketplace, which will occur on 13 November in Sydney.

The e-commerce giant reported that over 500 Australian sellers have registered to sell their products on Amazon Marketplace, and its recruitment efforts are ongoing. 

Catch Marketplace, which launched in June, said it has 300 retailers live on its site, with another 300 registered and currently undergoing rigorous checks.

“We are confident that given our strong buying position, marketplace, world class warehouse and logistics, customer base, excellent UX and strong brand we are in the box seat to be the number two online retailer in the country,” Catch Group’s head of marketplace, Adam Kron, told Internet Retailing.

Meanwhile, the largest retail marketplace started in Australia, MyDeal, has over 1,000 sellers on board, including most recently Shaver Shop and Canningvale.

This week, the company formed a partnership with Prospa to allow retailers on its platform to apply for loans of up to $250,000.

MyDeal CEO and founder Sean Senvirtne described the partnership to the Australian Financial Review as aimed at removing barriers to growth for the small and medium businesses.

As online marketplaces ramp up their recruiting efforts Down Under, small and medium businesses have a lot to gain, but not everyone will benefit equally. 

Catherine Cervasio, CEO of organic skincare brand, Aromababy, said the Taobao sellers she spoke to at Alibaba’s event last week were especially interested in her company’s twenty-three year-history.

“[They] really seemed to value brand heritage, saying they were not interested in start-up brands who had did not yet have a successful track record in Australia or exporting elsewhere,” she said.

Amazon and Catch have also emphasised the need for sellers to deliver the high level of service their customers have come to expect. 

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