D2C Brands Lead In Trust, Lag In Satisfaction

Retailers' apps and websites, like this one from Nordstrom, frequently do better than D2C brands. 

Despite the widespread appeal of many direct-to-consumer brands, they stumble on execution and are falling behind.

New research from PYMNTS Intelligence, in partnership with Adobe, finds that an average of 72% of people are “very” or “extremely” satisfied purchasing directly from a brand’s app or website. That compares with 76% of those shopping on retailers’ websites, such as or, and 80% using online marketplaces, like Amazon or eBay.

The study, which included 3,500 U.S. consumers, looked at purchases of clothing, groceries, electronics, and home furnishings. It points to D2C brands' relative shortcomings in AI recommendations and end-to-end solutions.

“The reason for a lower satisfaction with brand's websites or apps is friction in the checkout or lack of options consumers want, but find difficult to find in the brand's site, if at all,” Aitor Ortiz, managing director of PYMNTS Intelligence, tells D2C Insider via email.

But there is a different reality for younger consumers -- often the audience those D2C brands find most desirable.

“Interestingly, for Gen Z, satisfaction with brands is higher than with merchants and online marketplaces because they place more value on trust than on other elements, such as price) compared to other cohorts.”

The findings speak to consumers' ongoing struggle between a brand they genuinely love and the convenience of easy online purchases.

“Brands have the upper hand when it comes to trust and loyalty and variety of products,” Ortiz says. “This seems particularly relevant for younger generations and some industries like fashion.”

Yet the research finds the most significant satisfaction gap comes in clothing and accessories, with 81% of consumers saying they are pleased with purchases made from a marketplace, compared to just 70% of consumers who made their purchases directly from the brand.

And those who spent less per single purchase, as well as those with lower incomes, “tended to report less satisfaction with the brands from which they made their purchases — perhaps meaning that luxury brands are providing a better and more competitive purchasing experience than value-focused brands,” the report notes.

About 40% of Gen Z shoppers in the study prefer D2C purchases, often citing trust as the primary reason. They also frequently say D2C brands have superior customer service.

Older generations still prefer cheaper prices, which they believe may be found using retailers and marketplaces, rather than brands and additional services.

Overall, people see brands as underperforming in providing competitive prices, seamless checkout processes and multiple payment methods, the study found.

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