places emphasis on home during March Expo

NEW YORK — wants to be the connection between home furnishings buyers and sellers in the business-to-business landscape. And it’s backing that bet with scale and technology.

The Chinese e-commerce giant, founded by Jack Ma in 1999, continues to expand its reach globally and in the U.S., and as of 2014, became the world’s largest online B2B trading platform for small business.

Last month, it held its annual March Expo, livestreaming with some 4,000 suppliers and millions of discounts. For the 2021 Expo, it placed a special focus on the furniture industry, which is being driven by online consumer demand and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 11% from 2018 to 2021, reaching $1.372 trillion in global revenues this year, according to recent consumer market research from Statista.

John Caplan

John Caplan, president of North America and Europe at, said home goods, furniture and home accessories are among’s most important and well-represented segments. He said over the past year, the number of new furniture products increased by more than 2 million, and the U.S. is in top five countries that received the most inquiries on its platform.

He said goal of the annual March Expo is to help U.S. small-and-medium-sized businesses access the B2B global ecommerce opportunity and to do business anywhere.

“We’re focused on giving businesses large and small an edge. It’s a simple, easy buying experience with a curated supply of the best items with more than 6,000 data-driven product lists, 4,000 product launches, livestreamed events with 50,000 suppliers, 3-D digital showrooms and manufacturing and showroom tours, all from home,” said Caplan. “You can be home and participating in global trade, seeing the highest quality factories and discovering the best goods.”

For those who think that the Expo sounds like a digital trade show, Caplan said they’re on the right track, but he said it’s different in that it’s richer in technology and not bound by the constraints of traditional exhibitions.

‘It’s a trade show in the fact that buyers and sellers meet each other, but it has the benefit of real time translation,” Caplan said. “You can meet a manufacturer from Spain or China and they can speak or type in their native tongue and the machine translates it in real time. Everything we’re doing, sort of the whole experience of for the furniture industry, is to make it easy to participate in this dynamic, exciting market with unlimited access to data and information to help you manufacture, design, outfit whatever space you’re working on.”

Among the features Caplan called most friendly to small business is the Trade Assurance program, in which the buyer’s funds are held in escrow and not released to the vendor until a shipment is received and inspected for quality.

“The certainty of quality and certainty of delivery are bedrock principles at,” Caplan said.

Caplan said’s network of vendors offers buyers the advantage of being able to procure product based on any number of criteria, using artificial intelligence to match them with sellers.

“Everything you or I could imagine to calibrate the search, the system provides. If I want to search for high reviewed, low minimum order qualities, delivered at this time at this price point and are available right now, that is all available on our platform,” he said. “If someone in procurement in home textiles or home can imagine it, we can deliver it.”

The ability to sort by availability, he said, could serve to eliminate many of the logistical headaches the industry is suffering from today.

“We’ve made a massive investment in technology to make it easier to select and procure logistics inside of our platform. You can use the freight service to order your freight in the platform,” Caplan said. “We provide constant, transparent data on your shipments. We can’t make the boats travel any faster, but we can take as much friction out of the process as we can.”

Plus, he said,’s reach offers its customers many logistical advantages, including real-time data and competitive rates.

“Our platform has some of the best rates available,” Caplan said. “Not only the highest quality supply, given’s size and leverage, buyers are going to benefit from our position in the market to get good rates and data about what’s coming.”

Caplan said the service and all of its features could be a game-changer for the interior design industry.

“What’s amazing about the interior design industry, it’s incredibly creative people with the benefit of best-in-class technology that can imagine amazing things and then make them reality on our platform,” he said. “If you can imagine it, it can be produced by the manufacturers at”

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