Interview: Alibaba Group

Roland Palmer is the General Manager of the UK, Benelux & Nordics region of the Alibaba Group

How does the Alibaba Group’s B2B sourcing platform technology connect wholesalers to buyers in the UK?
With the click of a button, UK buyers of wholesale goods can browse, explore, and discover hundreds of thousands of products from suppliers around the world. is a professional sourcing platform, helping to cost-effectively reach and match wholesalers and buyers, delivering a seamless solution for bulk orders.
It also provides UK wholesalers with the tools they need to sell their products overseas. Growth categories include food and beverage, which offer both raw materials such as sugar, vegetable oils and meats and pre-packaged goods like confectionary and soft drinks.

What have you seen regarding customers behaviours and turning to digital platforms?
Online B2B marketplaces are quickly becoming one of the go-to solutions for businesses. In a similar way to B2C marketplaces, they streamline the entire buying process by helping buyers connect with thousands of suppliers. This helps drive margin gains for businesses who can quickly shop around for alternative products, while de-risking a business’s supply chain which often relies on single channels for sourcing products.
With 49% of B2B purchases in the UK now bought online[1], buyers are increasingly looking for more innovative ways to shop than ever before. To bring the best of the B2C experience to B2B, during our largest B2B sales event of the year – Super September – we hosted thousands of livestream events from suppliers in-markets. We also launched virtual reality factory tours, allowing UK B2B buyers to go inside the four walls of a supplier’s factory, all from the convenience of their office.

Innovations like these can be a great way for buyers to get to know a supplier, as well as an opportunity for wholesalers to showcase the benefits of their products, the quality, and the story of their operations. This engagement can help to build relationships based on trust and transparency.

What can do for UK wholesalers looking to exporting to overseas markets?
Businesses across the UK are under increased pressure to grow and, one of the leading B2B marketplaces, can help them export around the world. The platform has more than 40 million active buyers in over 190 countries – from the US to India, Brazil to the EU.

In our survey of over 2,000 businesses in the UK, almost half are concerned about the challenges of cross-border trade, despite recognising the export potential, with the biggest barriers to exporting identified as paperwork and customs rules. Clearly, businesses understand the importance of trading overseas, but are often worried about their ability to navigate a complex landscape.

We want to ensure more UK wholesalers are given the support they need to achieve global growth. Confidence amongst UK businesses that do currently export is high, with around 80% saying they expect their export sales to increase in the next 12 months. 92% of those exporting overseas are currently working with online marketplaces such as – because they can provide the tools, platform and reach to strengthen their international presence and boost export sales.

What are the latest wholesale trends has seen from its work?
We are seeing strong demand internationally across a range of categories, with more than 510,000 active buyers every day on

In the UK, Food & Beverage is one of our most in-demand categories, with UK buyers increasingly using to source products from multi-pack drinks and confectionery to ingredients such as cheese and coffee.

Another area where we have seen increased demand is sustainability. During our Super September event, we saw an uptake in sales of sustainability-focused products, ranging from those focused on renewable energy, to environmental protection, and bio-degradable and recyclable products.


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Paul Hill is the Editor of Better Wholesaling. He can be found on Twitter at @BW_PaulHill, or contacted via and 07960935659.


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