Using digital media for work-related purposes is now “business as usual” for engineers and other industrial professionals, according to results from the IHS Engineering360 Media Solutions 2015 Digital Media Use in the Industrial Sector survey. And as the use of digital resources continues to rise for such activities as finding components, equipment, services, and suppliers; obtaining product specifications; and performing research, the use of traditional media platforms continues to decline.

Year over year, the results of this survey have supported the same conclusion: digital channels are the industrial professional’s preferred resources. For marketers, that means you must continue to adapt to these trends by deploying a multi-channel digital media strategy to connect with your target audience.

Below are some of the highlights of the survey. You can download your own copy of the research report, “2015 Digital Media Use in the Industrial Sector,” including complete survey results, analysis, and recommendations to improve your marketing results.

Industrial professionals log hours online
Engineers spend a good portion of their time performing work-related tasks online. Fifty-three percent spend at least six hours per week online for work-related purposes. Forty-three percent visit more than 10 work-related websites each week. Online communities have experienced a marked increase in use.

Engineers of all ages use digital
Industrial professionals of all ages use digital media, although patterns vary somewhat based on age. The up-and-coming younger generation of engineers has slightly different preferences. This is important to note because almost half of the engineering workforce will be eligible for retirement in the next few years.

Younger technical professionals use social media more than their older colleagues, and conduct more product searches and read more news and e-newsletters. Thirty-nine percent of the 18-34 age group actively engages with online communities. They also use smartphones more, so be sure your digital content displays well on mobile devices.

Use is consistent throughout buy cycle
Consistency of usage when compared to previous years demonstrates that digital resources are firmly entrenched among industrial buyers, regardless of age, in nearly every facet of their jobs. Throughout all stages of the buy cycle — from needs analysis/research, to comparison/evaluation and purchase — the top digital sources for information are search engines, online catalogs and supplier websites.

The primary uses of the Internet for technical professionals has not changed much either, demonstrating that engineers have established the value of digital media to perform specific work-related tasks in their buy cycle: find components, equipment, services, and suppliers (77%); obtain product specifications (73%); find product availability information (70%); perform research (67%); and compare products across suppliers (66%).

Webinars and digital publications are replacing traditional media
As in-person tradeshows continue to experience decline, webinars have filled the void for interaction between technical professionals and vendors.

More than half of all industrial professionals (53%) attended no in-person tradeshows in 2014, an increase from 49% over the previous year. On the other hand, technical professionals are finding value in attending webinars and other online events. In 2014, two-thirds of industrial professionals attended at least one webinar or online event, and 30% attended four or more. Webinars and online events have proven to be effective marketing platforms, attracting a motivated audience willing to take time out of their busy workdays to attend.

Digital publications trump printed trade magazines as an information resource across all age groups. In 2015, technical professionals are subscribing to an average of 4.4 digital publications, such as e-newsletters and digital trade magazines, versus an average of 1.4 printed trade magazines, a difference of more than three-fold.

The upshot for suppliers and manufacturers
It used to be enough to have a website as your primary digital presence. This is no longer the case. These survey results reinforce the need for suppliers to have a highly visible, multi-channel digital marketing presence that touches influencers and buyers at various stages of their buy cycle. The research shows that no single digital resource is the favorite among industrial professionals. Rather, they use a variety of online sources, from search engines to supplier websites, webinars to online events, and e-newsletters to online catalogs.

The new research report will help you better understand how your customers and prospects use digital media, and how you can optimally incorporate digital channels into your marketing mix in 2016 to gain advantage, remain competitive and win business.

Click here for your complimentary copy of “Digital Use in the Industrial Sector.”

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