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Global retailers optimistic about rise of e-commerce, report says

Most global consumer goods companies and retailers view online marketplaces not as a threat, but as a platform that can spur consumer engagement and sales, according to a recent report by PA Consulting Group.

After conducting a survey among senior leaders from 150 consumer goods companies and 150 retailers for their views on e-commerce platforms and direct-to-consumer initiatives, the firm found that there is optimism about these customer-centric strategies because of the opportunities they offer.

Based on the results of the survey, consumer goods companies are enthusiastic about such direct-to-consumer channels because they believe these give customers greater choice, faster access to products, better experiences and more personalized goods.

Retailers, on the other hand, expect these channels to drive growth in customer demand, leverage e-commerce opportunities, improve customer service, hone marketing effectiveness, improve customer insight and boost delivery to customers, among other things.

In addition, around 73% of retail companies expect to see a positive impact from the rise of online marketplaces over the next five years, the report said.

However, it was noted that retailers in the Asia Pacific have a more positive attitude towards e-commerce platforms compared to retailers in the U.S. The study showed that about 20% of retailers believe that online marketplaces will negatively affect their businesses between now and 2023, and that this sentiment is far stronger in the U.S. (45%) than in Europe (13%) or Asia Pacific (3%).

The report said this likely reflects retailers' experience with prominent e-commerce companies like Amazon.com Inc., which is more prevalent in the U.S., and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., which is more prevalent in Asia. It noted that while Amazon emphasizes its role as a retailer, Alibaba focuses on being a platform provider that connects sellers to buyers, rather than being a seller itself.

Alibaba operates a number of e-commerce platforms, including Tmall, AliExpress, Lazada and Taobao, among others.

In response to the rise of online marketplaces, retailers across the globe intend to invest more in customer service and marketing, as well as broaden their product offerings, the report said. Some retail companies also plan to build new partnerships and expand their reach geographically.