The pilot month-long Spring Virtual Expo, organized by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council on its online marketplace (hktdc.com Sourcing), concluded successfully on April 30. It drew 1.4 million online buyers from around the world to visit and source, helping suppliers secure new contacts and orders. To meet buyer demand and mine the new sourcing trend, the HKTDC is launching a “Wellness from Within” promotion this month, featuring a wide range of wellbeing products on hktdc.com Sourcing. The HKTDC will also organize a Summer Virtual Expo next month to complement its physical fairs, doubling support for Hong Kong businesses.

HKTDC Deputy Executive Director Benjamin Chau says more than 22,000 suppliers used the hktdc.com Sourcing platform to reach global buyers effectively last month, despite a suspension in physical business activities and other restrictions brought by the COVID-19 outbreak. “As more than 2,500 fairs around the world were postponed or cancelled due to the pandemic, there is a growing demand for online sourcing,” says Chau. “In view of this, the HKTDC will organize the digital show every quarter this year. We believe that the online and physical fairs can complement with each other and create synergy to help SMEs promote their products during these challenging times.”

Meanwhile, as the outbreak stabilizes, the HKTDC Summer Sourcing Week will be held from July 25-28 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre to help international buyers replenish their stocks. It comprises nine concurrent fairs, creating a one-stop sourcing platform for lighting, electronics products, information and communication technology (ICT), medical and healthcare products, houseware, fashion, home textiles, gifts, printing and packaging products and more. The HKTDC offers a variety of online-to-offline (O2O) packages, helping suppliers reach global buyers through the Summer Virtual Expo coupled with physical showcase displays at these fairs.

Subsidies from the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government allow local suppliers to enjoy these O2O packages at half price. In addition, they can apply for subsidies under the enhanced Dedicated Fund on Branding, Upgrading and Domestic Sales (BUD Fund) and SME Export Marketing Fund (EMF) for other fair-related expenses.

In addition, The HKTDC is organizing a series of webinars from March to August, inviting industry experts and representatives from tech companies such as Google and PHD Media to share practical tips for online promotion, such as search engine optimization (SEO), omni-channel marketing, website design and best practices in taking online orders. Each webinar held to date attracted more than 300 SMEs, a two-to-three fold increase compared with similar physical seminars in the past.

An online survey conducted by the HKTDC showed that more Hong Kong companies plan to enhance promotion through online channels and consider increasing their digital advertising budgets. Survey respondents would also like to understand more about the hktdc.com Sourcing platform and relevant government subsidies. The common problems SMEs faced were how to plan and kick-start an online promotion, how to manage resources and keep track of effectiveness, as well as strategies for expanding into overseas markets and reaching target buyers, and techniques in content creation such as product photography. The HKTDC’s digital platform can address these “pain points.”

The Spring Virtual Expo boosted traffic to hktdc.com Sourcing, with the number of buyer visits jumping 64 percent from March to close to 1.4 million in April; and brought double-digit growth in the number of enquiries received. The top five origins of enquiries were the U.S., Hong Kong, India, the United Kingdom and Canada, while consumer electronics, toys and games, gifts and premiums, medical supplies and houseware were the most-enquired product categories. Top enquired products include body thermometers, pedometers, medical/oxygen masks, USB flash drives and mobile phones.

The HKTDC’s 50 global offices helped reach out to international buyers and offered professional support by handling about 700 in-depth business matching requests, creating 1,500 business connections. These offices also arranged virtual business matching meetings for the first time, with some 60 sessions enabling suppliers to showcase their latest collections to potential quality buyers.

Chau says more than 56 percent of the in-depth business matching enquiries were from Asia, 22 percent from Europe and 15 percent from the Americas. “We help global buyers to find suppliers. These include e-tailers Amazon, Shopee (Singapore), Snapdeal (India), HKTV Mall (Hong Kong), as well as traditional chain stores such as United Arab of Emirates’ AI Jaber Gallery (gifts) and Indonesia’s ACE Hardware.”

The business matching service received positive feedback from buyers such as Thai company Phrion Intertrade Co. Its Business Development Manager Phong Jitpatanarat used to visit the HKTDC Hong Kong Gifts & Premium Fair each April, sourcing corporate gifts for clients. “With the COVID-19 and lockdown, we cannot look for new vendors physically. Thanks to the HKTDC Business Matching team helping me to arrange virtual meetings, I can see suppliers’ samples and showrooms to pick items deemed fit. It’s very useful. I’ve spotted three potential suppliers and look forward to receiving their quotes for further discussion,” says Jitpatanarat.

Chau says the business matching service the HKTDC offers had played a role in combating the outbreak. “For example, Canada’s C4P company, who uses the service, was assisting the Ontario government to source personal protective equipment and set up a surgical mask production line in Canada. We have arranged six online business matching meetings, and the company is considering cooperating with four suppliers to source masks, face shields, gloves, isolation gowns and more. In addition, we have helped local new face-mask manufacturers identify 30 overseas suppliers of melt-blown non-woven fabrics which are essential for mask production.”

Chau attributes the Spring Virtual Expo’s success largely to the trustworthiness of the platform. “The HKTDC’s online marketplace, hktdc.com Sourcing, has won multiple international awards. The site features around 130,000 quality suppliers and two million international buyers, with over 24 million business connections made each year. Suppliers’ information is verified by third-party organizations to enhance buyers’ sourcing confidence. Apart from English, Chinese, the digital platform’s navigation interface is also available in six European language namely Russian, German, French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese, allowing buyers to source with their preferred language.”

Wellness_ENHome Fitness, Tech Gadget, Cookware and Beauty are the weekly themes of the “Wellness from Within” promotion on hktdc.com Sourcing this month, covering a series of quality products for fitness and leisure. The HKTDC will send out two or three personalized email newsletters to VIP buyers each week. Products such as weight training equipment, fitness balls and yoga mats will be featured in the first week; computer, audio & visual and smart-home tech products in the second week; bread machines, blenders, baking utensils and dish washers in the third week; and beauty machines, hair treatment, tooth beauty and cosmetics in the final week.

The Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) is a statutory body established in 1966 to promote, assist and develop Hong Kong’s trade. With 50 offices globally, including 13 in Mainland China, the HKTDC promotes Hong Kong as a two-way global investment and business hub. The HKTDC organizes international exhibitions, conferences and business missions to create business opportunities for companies, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), in the mainland and international markets. The HKTDC also provides up-to-date market insights and product information via trade publications, research reports and digital news channels. For more info, visit www.hktdc.com/aboutus.

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