The Digital Disruption: Three Digital Usage Trends in the Industrial Sector

Engineers and other industrial professionals are spending more time online and using a variety of digital resources to perform work-related tasks, which has transformed their buy cycle and challenged traditional marketing and sales processes for suppliers and manufacturers. This phenomenon is called the Digital Disruption.

IHS GlobalSpec recently conducted a survey of industrial professionals that helped uncover the key trends leading to the Digital Disruption. You can download the complimentary research report, Digital Media Use in the Industrial Sector, to access the results, analysis and recommendations.

Here are three of the key trends:

1. Industrial Professionals Rely More than Ever on the Internet
It’s no surprise that engineers and industrial professionals are going online for work-related information. Forty-six percent visit 10 or more work-related websites in a week, while 23 percent visit 20 or more sites. Fifty-three percent of engineers spend at least 6 hours a week on the Internet for work. In the 18-34 age group, 39 percent spend more than 8 hours a week on the Internet for work.
One of the reasons the Internet is so valuable to engineers is that they can and do perform a variety of work-related tasks online. Eighty-four percent use the Internet to find components, equipment, services and suppliers. This “searching and finding” is the most commonly performed task. Other top uses include comparing products across suppliers, obtaining product specifications, and finding pricing information.

The variety of uses reinforces the need for suppliers to shift away from traditional media to be found by their target audience online and to provide timely, accurate and relevant content that meets the needs of customers and prospects.

2. Customers Wait Longer and Longer in the Buy Cycle to Contact Suppliers
The industrial buy cycle consists of distinct stages: Needs Awareness and Research, Comparison and Evaluation, and Purchase. At one time, suppliers were engaged with buyers throughout the stages of the buy cycle. Today, the Digital Disruption has changed that. Fifty-six percent of buyers don’t contact a vendor until they reach at least the Comparison and Evaluation stage of the buy cycle. Nineteen percent don’t contact the vendor until they are ready to make a purchase. Buyers are relying on digital resources to discover and research information about products, services and suppliers, and to narrow down their options before even getting a vendor involved.

The key takeaway for suppliers: You must be found in the early stages of the buy cycle to be on a buyer’s short list. During the Needs Awareness and Research phase, the most frequently used resources are general search engines, supplier websites, online catalogs, and GlobalSpec.com.

You also must be able to connect with a variety of buyers, recommenders, influencers and decision makers during the buy cycle. For purchases under $1,000, there is only one decision maker 54 percent of the time. But for purchases of more than $10,000, there are three or more decision makers involved 65 percent of the time.

3. The Number of Digital Resources Available for Industrial Professionals Continues to Grow
The Internet isn’t just a single destination for industrial professionals, but rather a collection of innovative, relevant and useful digital resources for helping engineers be more productive and efficient in their work processes.
The top four resources engineers use to find what they are looking for are digital resources: general search engines, online catalogs, supplier websites, and GlobalSpec.com.

While attendance by industrial professionals at traditional tradeshows has declined, the majority of engineers (51 percent) did not attend an in-person tradeshow in 2012, this audience’s participation in webinars and other online events is robust. Nearly two-thirds of industrial professionals said they attended at least one webinar or online event last year. Twenty-six percent said they went to four or more.

Another trend contributing to the Digital Disruption is that digital publications have taken over from print publications. Engineers subscribe to three times as many digital publications, such as e-newsletters, as they do printed trade magazines. Social media is also being used for work purposes. LinkedIn is the most popular channel, with 58 percent of engineers having an account.
Because your target audience relies on multiple digital channels, you must have a highly visible presence on those channels to connect with customers and prospects. Only through a multichannel approach can you achieve effective marketing results.

For a more in-depth analysis of the digital usage in the industrial sector and the Digital Disruption it is causing, read the complimentary report Digital Media Use in the Industrial Sector. It will help you make more informed decisions about your marketing strategy and tactics.

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How have you responded to the Digital Disruption? What tips and ideas would you pass along to your peers in industrial marketing? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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