The Hong Kong Trade Development Council’s (HKTDC) hktdc.com Sourcing online trading platform has demonstrated solid performance since being upgraded in October last year to more efficiently connect global buyers and suppliers amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The upgraded platform uses machine-learning and image-recognition technologies to enhance business-matching efficiency and provide a more personalised smart-sourcing experience. The enhancement helped boost platform traffic and enquiries, which grew 15% and 26% respectively in the 2020/21 financial year ending March. The platform has also garnered multiple internationally acclaimed awards.
Commenting on these achievements, HKTDC Deputy Executive Director Benjamin Chau said COVID-19 had prompted companies around the world to accelerate digitalisation and online sourcing is becoming more popular. “The platform upgrading could not have been better timed. It enabled us to better connect buyers and suppliers just when online trading became all the more important amid pandemic-induced travel restrictions and distancing measures,” he added. “The platform enjoys strong recognition among users and website professionals, and we are pleased to have received 13 prestigious awards in the past few months.”
The accolades include Best International Business Website, Best Marketing Website, Best Directory or Search Engine Website and Best Small Business Website from the Internet Advertising Competition; Best International Business Website and Best Small Business Website from MobileWebAwards; as well as Redesign/Relaunch Website and Video awards from Astrid Awards and Mercury Excellence Awards. It is the 10th consecutive year the platform has received MobileWebAwards.
The International Advertising Competition and MobileWebAwards are annual competitions organised by the Web Marketing Association of the United States to honour excellence in relation to websites and mobile apps. The annual Astrid Awards and Mercury Awards are organised by US-based MerComm, Inc., which aims to define the standards of excellence in the communications fields.
Flexi plan, maxi flan
With 130,000 suppliers and 2 million buyers in its database, hktdc.com Sourcing creates 24 million business connections a year. An authentication system puts the suppliers in Gold, Silver and Bronze categories based on reputation and activity. Records of their participation at HKTDC events and most recent data update time are also provided, giving buyers useful reference as they seek out the most suitable suppliers. The Third-party Authentication Service, meanwhile, allows suppliers to highlight credibility and product quality, strengthening buyer confidence.
Mr Chau said suppliers can purchase “boosters”, based on their business needs and promotion strategies, to increase exposure on the hktdc.com Sourcing platform, enhancing their reach to potential business partners. “For users, this service has on average driven a 2.4- fold rise in business enquiries and 29-fold increase in exposure to buyers,” said Mr Chau.
New buyers, new markets
Buyers from economies with free trade agreements with Hong Kong, such as Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members, are more active on hktdc.com Sourcing, according to Mr Chau. “Suppliers receive business enquiries mostly from ASEAN and other Asian countries [25%], followed by Europe [18%] and the Americas [17%],” said Mr Chau, adding that the top five enquired categories are gifts, toys & sports supplies; electronics; home products, lights & construction; health, beauty & baby care; and food & beverage.
Local governments and municipal trade promotion bodies in Mainland China, Italy, Japan and Korea have set up cluster zones on the platform to promote advantageous industries and special products in their respective countries and regions. The Federation of Hong Kong Industries and Hong Kong Exporters Association has also joined the platform to showcase members’ brands and designs.
Mr Chau said the HKTDC will further enhance its digital marketing services and develop virtual platforms in order to improve the effectiveness of its hybrid physical-online events, create seamless event experiences and enhance its 24/7 online business-matching services. Mr Chau said local companies can leverage the SME Export Marketing Fund – which has expanded its scope to cover such promotion-related work as video/product shooting and editing services – and free online training at the HKTDC’s Digital Academy to accelerate digital transformation and enhance online marketing competitiveness. “We have invited specialists to share secrets of success in a series of Digital Academy online videos and webinars, with topics ranging from digital marketing, e-commerce, content development and surviving in the new normal, helping local SMEs master the basic knowledge and skills needed to start online business,” said Mr Chau.
He said the HKTDC will continue to organise quarterly online thematic promotions to create opportunities for various sectors. “We received encouraging feedback on the first two promotions of this year, namely ‘Everything for Home’ and ‘Outdoor Living. We will focus on lifestyle and festive products in the second half of 2021.”