By Adweek BrandShare

Inviting someone to a party only to turn them away at the door is bad manners. Spending money to draw consumers to your website and then sending them somewhere else to transact is bad business.

But that’s just the kind of experience many people are having today, according to a new e-commerce report. Brands are spending billions each year to raise awareness, foster trust and engage consumers on their websites and digital properties. But when site visitors are ready to buy, they’re redirected to retailers to purchase products.

This is a missed opportunity to give loyal consumers what they want, not to mention make a sale.

BrandShop, which builds digital commerce solutions for some of the world’s best-known brands, just surveyed more than 1,000 consumers in the U.S. for its 2016 Digital Consumer Preferences Survey. It discovered that four out of five shoppers expect to be able to buy products directly from a brand’s site and would do so if given the option. More than half said that when it comes to clothing, they actually prefer to buy direct from a brand.

Download the full text of BrandShop’s “2016 Digital Consumer Preferences Survey”

The problem is that most big brands have never sold direct. In fact, marketers have seemed happy to leave the responsibility for shipping, warehousing and managing e-commerce operation to their retailers. That might have worked a decade ago, but today it’s putting the consumer relationship at risk. Those retailers control the buying environment, where competing products are marketed to shoppers alongside your own. Instead of your bedding set, headphones or laundry detergent ending up in the shopping cart, it’s the other guy’s.

To fill this gap, most brands will need help. Marketers who don’t have the expertise—or the bandwidth—to plan and launch an online retail channel are increasingly turning to specialists such as BrandShop to create seamless, high-quality shopping experiences—not to mention handle payment, shipping and customer service.

“Brand-owned channels are the best destinations for consumers to fully experience a brand and its products,” says Reuben S. Hendell, CEO of BrandShop. “People want to shop and transact directly with brands, and those that continue to underinvest in direct-to-consumer initiatives will miss out on this immense opportunity.”

A few early adopters are demonstrating how to do this well. Well-known retail-distributed brands such as Hershey, Mrs. Meyer’s and Cuisinart have realized how important it is to have a direct-to-consumer channel, not to mention that it can be easy and cost effective.

Today, you don’t just find Hershey’s Kisses at supermarkets, mass merchants or newsstands—the candymaker now has a digital commerce operation. At HersheysStore.com you can learn about the history of the candymaker, browse recipes, sign up for a newsletter … and buy fresh-from-the-factory candy and branded merchandise like Reese’s hooded sweatshirts.

“Direct-to-consumer is an exciting way for us to expand and deepen our relationships with people where they shop, which is increasingly online,” says Serena Fedor, direct-to-consumer and shopper experience manager at the Hershey Company. “Our research shows that consumers want to purchase customized, special gifts and products from their favorite brands. So, we design our sites to speak to our consumers’ needs by providing unique gifting options.”
While Hershey’s knows the importance of delivering an engaging e-commerce experience, that’s not necessarily true for all companies with direct-to-consumer operations.

According to BrandShop’s research, only 39 percent of consumers found shopping online directly from brands to be highly satisfying, compared to 65 percent satisfaction from shopping at retailer sites. In fact, one in 10 were highly dissatisfied with the shopping experience on brand websites. Issues ranged from high prices and shipping costs to not being able to buy products directly.

So what’s the solution? Simply promoting your products online is no longer enough. Brands need to be able to transact from a digital storefront that is well designed, well stocked and as good as any top-tier retail site. Your brand marketing depends on it.