Industrial buyers are turning to the Internet nearly twice as often as the offline information sources they have long relied on, according to a comprehensive study of industrial buying and selling behaviors. However, many industrial suppliers have yet to catch up by making sure potential customers can find their sites and providing the kind of information buyers are seeking, the research indicates.

Sponsored by, 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:

  • 70% of buyers expect to find detailed information on product applications and uses, but only half of all sellers' sites (53%) provide it.

  • 58% seek computer-aided design (CAD) drawings and plans, but only a minuscule 13% of sellers make them available online.

  • 74% expect to find product prices, but only 23% of company Web sites offer them.

  • 67% want to see shipping information and costs, but fewer than 17% of suppliers provide this on their sites.

    “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:

  • 56% requested a quote.

  • 59% issued a purchase order.

  • 86% recommended or selected a new supplier or new product or service for their company based on their online experiences.

    “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.”