Sponsored by ThomasNet.com, a Web site for industrial procurement, and search engine Google, this nationwide study of more than 900 industrial purchasers and suppliers revealed that industrial buyers are increasingly turning to the Internet and bypassing offline sources such as distributors' catalogs and sales reps when searching for products and services and where to buy them.
But if potential buyers find the supplier's Web site online - a questionable proposition in many cases - they're likely to find the information lacking. According to the study:
“The research clearly points to a disconnect between the information buyers want and need to make their purchasing decisions and what suppliers are offering online,” said Eileen Markowitz, president of Thomas Industrial Network, Inc. “Industrial marketers need to address the quality and specificity of the information they make available - so they can start to turn more of their Web site visitors into customers and gain a real competitive edge.”
While 55% of industrial suppliers say they devote a major portion of their marketing budgets to their companies' Web sites, they pay far less attention to building buyer awareness and driving online traffic to them.
Only 32% of sellers say they advertise their sites on search engines or industrial destination sites to help potential customers find them, even though more than 80% of industrial buyers consider them their most important tools for researching and comparing products and services.
While 68% of industrial sellers plan to increase spending on their Web sites and 78% plan to redesign their sites in the next year, only 46% anticipate spending more to promote and drive traffic to their new and improved sites.
According to the survey, 97% of buyers who researched or compared products online took one or more kinds of further action either online or off, including:
“Industrial buyers will guide sellers to the money if sellers ensure their Web sites think first of their user, the role they're in and the information they require to satisfy that role and put that information at their buyers' fingertips,” said Anthea Stratigos, co-founder and CEO, Outsell, Inc., a research and advisory firm for the information and publishing industry. “The results echo some 2,000 interviews we've done between 2001 and 2005, which reinforce that the Internet is the hands-down venue of choice for today's industrial buyer.”