When doing internet research for a purchasing project, a gap exists between finding pertinent information on packaging vendors’ websites and being able to share it with others in your buying team.
Our initial international study about the online buying behavior of people seeking packaging solutions reported several interesting online behavioral characteristics related to the effort it takes to find online information and social buyer interactions online. To further explore these reportings, we decided to carry out a follow-up study examining the online presence of packaging solutions vendors in Europe and North America. The goal of this exploratory research was to find out if there is a "gap" between the data and behavior reported by buyers versus the online offerings of packaging solutions vendors.
The motivation for this study stems from the desire to further substantiate, repudiate or clarify earlier findings from the online buying behavior study. Thus, this follow-up study focused on the supplier/vendor side of the packaging industry in six countries: USA, Canada, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Germany and Italy. The study examined 456 companies in the six countries during the period of April through June 2015.
We studied these two points:
1. The ease of finding online information to facilitate a purchasing decision.
2. The ability or desire to share such information by email or other digital means with other members of a buying team.
Ease of getting information
Earlier buyers reported that it was rather difficult to find relevant online information to support their purchases. The average rating of this task was 6.5 on a scale of 1 to 10. This study rated suppliers’ websites on the following five hindrances:
• If it took more than three mouse clicks to find information.
• If an email address was requested to access information.
• If an account needed to be created before accessing information.
• If personal information needed to be given before accessing information.
• If there was no product/service information on the website.
On a five point scale, one point was deducted for each of the hindrances. Figure 1 shows that most vendors do not hinder access to product or services information. In all countries except the Netherlands, more than 80% of the companies do not hinder their customers in any of the five measurements above. Further, only 5% to 29% of the companies in the various countries exhibit one minor hindrance (the orange shading).
FIGURE 1: EFFORT TO ACCESS INFORMATION
Share ability of online information
The share ability of online vendor information is shown in Figure 2 and Figure 3. In most countries, less than 20% of the packaging solutions vendors provide the ability to easily share information on their webpages (such as with email buttons or social media buttons). Interestingly, none of the companies studied in Netherlands or Germany offer such sharing options.
FIGURE 2: SHAREABLE INFORMATION (TOTAL)
FIGURE 3: SHAREABLE INFORMATION (BY COUNTRY)
We also characterized the companies by their mainstream business activities namely: services, materials, equipment or combination of two or more activities. Our data indicated that 16% of the equipment vendors offer sharing options, while only 5% of the packaging services companies do.
Thus, we conclude that packaging solutions vendors are doing a good job in making their webpages easily accessible to potential buyers. However, the ability to share the online information easily can be vastly improved, especially for the increasing number of digital natives making purchasing decisions today.
For more details about the gap analysis, download the PDF below.
George Szanto is a tenured lecturer specialized in business-to-business (B2B) emarketing at Fontys University in the Netherlands. Prior to this, he held various international executive management positions in tech industries for more than 10 years.
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