August 1, 2018
Management thinker Peter Drucker said that "you can't manage what you can't measure”. This is particularly important for modern-world marketing. Marketing strategy should start with benchmarks and finish with results metrices. This blog analyses the online decision-making habits of packaging buyers and is a great starting point for marketers of packaging solution providers.
Nearly three-quarters (73%) of packaging buyers used the internet last year to identify an appropriate packaging solutions supplier, according to research by Fontys University in partnership with Packaging Digest. The third annual Packaging Buyers Online Behaviour survey[i] sampled 145 decision makers in North America and other parts of the world, each responsible for spending at least $25,000 on packaging solutions or services last year. The research sheds light on how buying decisions are made, what challenges hinder the process and what channels are most valued by prospects. Here ABI, a Finn Partners company, takes a look at findings from the survey.
When do buyers go online?
The study revealed that use of the internet varies at different stages of the buying cycle. At the first stage - identifying the packaging need - just over half (56%) of buyers use the internet. This tallies with insight from Forrester which shows that modern digitally empowered B2B buyers prefer to do their own research online (68%) before contacting sales reps. A majority of these buyers (62%) say they can now develop selection criteria or finalise a vendor list based solely on digital content.
At stage two (identifying appropriate suppliers/vendors), 73% of decision makers use the internet according to Packaging Digest/Fontys University. At this step, possible solutions to the packaging need are documented and analysed.
The study reveals that over a third (37%) of buyers validate suppliers and solutions using online information and that information such as reputation, delivery accuracy, capabilities and ease of working together can be researched digitally today. This step usually includes reducing the number of suppliers to a shortlist to request pricing information.
Only 22% of purchasers use the internet for the final selection of a vendor and supplier. However, this is to be expected, as packaging equipment and materials are rarely off-the-shelf solutions that can be purchased without test runs and consultations.
Where are they searching?
Online information sources differ depending on the stages of the buying cycle, according to the research. This highlights the importance of sharing the right information on the right channels in order to be seen and found.
While identifying a need for a new packaging solution, buyers rely on educational content found in blogs (33%) and in white papers and case studies (25%), among other online information sources.
When searching for vendors, buyers tend to go directly to suppliers’ websites. Industry intermediates, such as professional trade organisations are used by 50% of buyers to help identify vendors, and industry seminars, trade shows and other offline events are also popular. One third of buyers are using online search at this stage.
To shortlist preferred vendors, 25% of buyers look for recommendations, reviews and third-party endorsements. These can be found on Google, or via peer recommendation and industry associations / online communities.
Information shortage or overload?
Buyers are primarily looking for information on packaging solutions online – whether equipment or materials, pricing, reviews from existing customers or success stories.
The study records frustration with the fact that it’s still too hard to get packaging prices online. This is understandable where packaging solutions are customised to meet individual requirements and products.
The effort it takes to locate useful information remains relatively high. Two out of ten buyers find it very difficult, while four out of ten report it to be easy. Gated content was mentioned most often when it comes to difficulties associated with obtaining further information (apart from pricing). Packaging buyers noted that their contact details were asked for to get to brochures, white papers and other factual information.
In addition, simply finding the right sources online is still a challenge in the packaging industry, while the final point of frustration referred to poorly designed websites.
Meeting prospects’ needs
In a world overloaded with information, it is very important to be where your prospects are, but it is also paramount to provide an excellent user experience and relevant information for each stage of the decision-making process. The study by Fontys University is a good starting point to evaluate your current processes.
Analysing what works for your target audience is the next step to success. Modern marketing technologies allow you to track where your customers are coming from and what makes them convert into sales leads.
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