The Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) has upgraded its Sourcing platform in the run-up to the HKTDC Autumn Sourcing Week | ONLINE virtual exhibition, helping small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) capture global business

opportunities and adapt to digital sourcing models in the post-pandemic new normal. Benjamin Chau, HKTDC Deputy Executive Director, said: “The pandemic has changed the sourcing pattern of many companies and accelerated the transformation of the global supply chain. The latest HKTDC survey shows that Hong Kong companies are adjusting their business strategies to cope with the new normal. Companies are increasingly ‘going digital’ to expand their online distribution channels (69%), conducting online marketing (56%) to develop new business markets (57%) and accelerating the application of technology in their business (47%).” Mr Chau observed that trade activities were on the rise in the third quarter of 2020, with a rebound in Hong Kong’s total exports. While physical trade fairs cannot be held at present, he called on local businesses to leverage the HKTDC’s digital platforms and services to tap into various markets, especially economies that have signed free trade agreements with the city such as Mainland China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). “Mainland China is probably the only economy in the world that will see positive GDP (gross domestic product) growth in 2020, and its ‘dual circulation’ model of development with an emphasis on the domestic economy will stimulate consumption growth. As a major trade fair hub in Asia, Hong Kong can play a pivotal role in attracting more local and international brands and products to the mainland market,” he added.

Omni-channel platform to create business opportunities

In response to these new developments, Mr Chau said the HKTDC will stage Autumn Sourcing Week | ONLINE from 16 to 27 November following the completion of a significant upgrade to its Sourcing platform. “Users will notice a refreshed design as well as new features that deliver a better, more personalised smart-sourcing experience anytime and anywhere. We have also employed new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to increase the efficiency through which we connect buyers with suppliers and improve the overall user experience.” He said the HKTDC will continue to enhance its online services to help Hong Kong businesses capture opportunities. He believes physical and online exhibitions should integrate and complement each other. “Even when physical exhibitions resume, the HKTDC will continue to organise regular thematic online sourcing events to cater to the different sourcing cycles of various sectors, providing exhibitors with additional opportunities to connect with global buyers,” Mr Chau explained. “Fully utilising the advantages of online-to-offline promotion, we will carry out digital promotions and business-matching activities before and after the trade fairs, allowing exhibitors to reach out to overseas buyers who are not able to come to Hong Kong and helping to create an extended exhibition experience.”

Advanced smart sourcing opens up global business opportunities

Mr Chau said Sourcing is an easy-to-use platform that allows local businesses to customise online store pages and upload rich content, videos and images. The platform employs image recognition technology to swiftly provide keyword suggestions for relevant products, enabling target buyers to find the right products more easily. Suppliers can also examine page-performance data from the dashboard at any time, helping to improve supply chain management and making it easier to assess marketing effectiveness. The new platform records buyers’ preferences and recommends relevant new products to them. “Local businesses are also provided with the option to purchase promotion ‘boosters’ based on their business needs and promotion strategies. This gives them the flexibility to increase their exposure on Sourcing platform pages and enhance their reach to potential business partners,” Mr Chau said. “In addition, the NewsBites content page introduces the latest sourcing trends and popular products. It also pushes notifications via social media channels such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to encourage more prospective buyers from around the world to visit suppliers’ online stores on our platform.”

Flexible services to meet marketing needs

The new supplier authentication system classifies companies on the platform into Gold, Silver and Bronze categories based on reputation and activeness. A record of companies’ participation at HKTDC events and their last update time are also provided, serving as a reference for buyers as they seek out the most suitable suppliers,” Mr Chau said. The Third-party Authentication Service, meanwhile, allows suppliers to highlight their credibility and product quality to strengthen buyer confidence. We are also launching the Digital Academy to provide SMEs with comprehensive free-of-charge assistance and training in the area of digital marketing,” Mr Chau continued. These pragmatic, easy-to-understand courses, conducted by digital marketing experts, explore a variety of topics including search-engine optimisation (SEO), search-engine marketing (SEM), social-media content marketing, product photography, filming, copywriting techniques, and e-commerce business strategies. For example, award-winning film director Oliver Chan will share some of the secrets behind creating video content for digital platforms.

More trade promotion organisations sign up to platform

Trade promotion organisations such as the Federation of Hong Kong Industries, Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT) and others from Italy, Korea and Qatar have set up cluster zones on Sourcing to promote products from their members as well as brands and industries in their respective countries and regions. Tomohiro Takashima, Director General of JETRO’s Hong Kong office, said the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on physical trade activities between Japan and Hong Kong, and that more Japanese exporters exploring overseas markets have switched to online marketing. “We were pleased to learn that the HKTDC had launched an upgraded Sourcing online platform,” Mr Takashima said. “Using the customised online and social media promotion plan offered by the HKTDC, we have set up a page on the platform featuring more than 150 Japanese suppliers of houseware, healthcare and beauty products and more. I am confident that the platform can effectively connect Japanese businesses with buyers from Hong Kong and other markets and create business opportunities for all parties concerned. We plan to scale up the page gradually to feature more suppliers from different industries,” he added. Daniel Ip, Chairman of the Federation of Hong Kong Industries, said times are tough for Hong Kong exporters amid the pandemic. Online sales and promotion have become a dominant trend in the industry, leading the federation to set up a dedicated page on the upgraded Sourcing online platform to help members promote their products. “I am delighted that the timely launch of the upgraded platform offers local SMEs an effective channel to connect with overseas buyers. In addition, the Digital Academy offers free courses to equip them with digital marketing capabilities to meet the challenges posed by the post-COVID-19 new normal,” Dr Ip added.