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April 25, 2006

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While industrial buyers are turning to the Internet nearly twice as often as the offline information sources they've long relied on, 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, according to a recent, comprehensive ThomasNet/Google study.

ThomasNet/Google Study Reveals Online Disconnects Between Industrial Buyers and Sellers

NEW YORK, November 9, 2005 - Industrial buyers seeking everything from nuts and bolts to sophisticated manufacturing equipment 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 ThomasNet.com 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, trade publications, and sales reps when searching for products and services and where to buy them.

But it's not all good news for industrial sellers who are already online. 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; and • 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 website visitors into customers and gain a real competitive edge."

Making sure prospective buyers are able to find suppliers' sites when they embark on an online search is the other half of the battle according to the research. 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. Among the major disconnects:

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.

Meanwhile, 68% of industrial sellers plan to increase spending on their websites and 78% plan to redesign their sites in the next year. But only 46% anticipate spending more to promote and drive traffic to their new and improved sites.

"Industrial buyers -- like customers everywhere -- increasingly rely on the Internet to research and purchase products and services," said Patrick Keane, product marketing director for Google. "This study confirms the tremendous opportunity that still exists for industrial suppliers to find and engage customers online."

If there's one motivation for industrial suppliers to focus on their Internet marketing strategies, it's that online sourcing by buyers translates directly to buying actions. 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; and • 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 websites 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 C. Stratigos, co-founder and CEO, Outsell, Inc., a leading research and advisory firm for the information and publishing industry. "The results echo some 2000 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."

Source

Industrial Buyers Shopping On the Web, But Suppliers May Be Missing the Sale corp. press release Thomas Publishing Company LLC, Nov. 9, 2005

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