New Delhi, India, May 8, India: New research from integrated communications agency, Text100, has revealed the uphill struggle faced by technology companies as they seek to sell to an increasingly multifaceted and diverse audience.
Based on interviews with 1,900 IT decision makers worldwide, the research found on average six people are involved in the technology purchasing decision-making process. Although 55 per cent of companies have the Head of IT involved in making the final decision, 42 per cent require CEO/Managing Director sign-off, while 22 per cent require final approval from Board of Directors.
The Text100 Influence Index: Paving the Path to Advocacy report, which explores how global business decision makers are influenced as they consider buying technology solutions, reaffirms the tendency of executives doing initial research on various reference sources, including supplier’s website (43 per cent), search engine (34 per cent) and online endorsements, reviews or recommendations (27 per cent) before deciding which technology solutions to buy. In fact, 1 in 4 chief information officers claim to do initial fact-finding themselves.
CEO of Text100 Aedhmar Hynes said, “We know people no longer simply walk into a shop or visit a website to buy a product without first checking online reviews, social recommendations or price comparisons. This is no different with the B2B technology buyer. By truly understanding the stakeholder and their behaviour, objectives and sources of influence, technology suppliers will stand a better chance of making sure the decision goes their way.”
This increasingly complex environment emphasizes the need for technology suppliers to present a balance of technical and business content when engaging decision-makers throughout the buyer’s journey, which involves the awareness, intent, action, confidence and advocacy stages.
Trust over traffic
Despite being the most common source of information, supplier’s websites are not deemed the most influential. While an average of 40 per cent of decision-makers use them at all stages, supplier websites only ranked fourth in importance. Instead, respondents rated trusted advisors, including colleagues, peers and professional experts as the most important sources of information.
When approaching a business challenge, over two-thirds (68%) of decision makers first reach out to people they know such as colleagues, peers and existing suppliers for advice, emphasising the notion of trust and the importance placed on existing relationships and recommendations.
Findings from the research, which was also conducted in China and India, exhibit some degree of differences across markets. In India, colleagues and peers are less referred to as compared to supplier’s websites, specialist IT magazines, consultants, Facebook and e-newsletters. The importance of channels evolves across the decision-making journey – proactive internet search increases in importance at the intent stage before they arrive at any action.
While relationship sets the foundation of the buyer’s journey in China, expert’s validation is also found to be most critical in driving decision-making outcome. 70 per cent of Chinese respondents refer to existing suppliers instead of reaching out to colleagues and peers when facing a business challenge. Analyst report holds considerable role in shaping the ultimate decision in China, as well as India.
Regional Director of Text100 Asia Pacific Anne Costello said, “Asia Pacific certainly is a rewarding market for B2B technology with IT spending expected to increase this year. In order to reap maximum opportunity, brands must spot the right visibility at the right place and time, taking into account cultural differences of local decision makers. One size will never fit all – it is therefore important for brands to adapt to the highly integrated environment of decision makers today. By understanding the buyer’s journey, brands can tailor appropriate content and channels at each engagement points in order to define an effective, customer-centric sales approach.”
Driving advocacy with social media
The report also suggests worldwide technology companies to actively engage customers and influencers on social media throughout post-sales journey in order to drive a lively community of brand advocates. Assuming customers have a positive experience with a supplier, they are willing to share their user experience either voluntarily or when asked by a supplier.
The decision makers surveyed provided an encouraging response when asked about their tendency in sharing experience on social media channels, contributing a rating of over 7 and above for each media including forum, blog and Twitter (on a scale of 1-10). While Twitter is found to be the least important social source, forums and blogs play a pivotal part in informing their purchase decision, especially during the awareness and intent stages.
“Customers who have a positive purchase experience can become brand advocates and are not only more likely to make a repeat purchase, but also serve as third-party influencers who shape purchase preference for other buyers,” adds Hynes. “Technology suppliers have a real opportunity to influence purchase decisions and drive a path to advocacy with buyers. If they get that right, it doesn’t just mean securing a sale. It means gaining a powerful advocate for future sales too.”
Other findings – China and India:
- In China, on average 5 people are involved in the technology decision-making process, and 7 people for India. To a certain degree, the decision-making panel in India involves more technical executives
- Cost is not the most important information for decision makers in China and India. Instead details of technical support and specification are their priority
- In China and India, if asked by a supplier, customers are more likely to act as advocates compared to the global average
- Decision makers in China believe that the amount of time (95 per cent) and information consumed (96 per cent) when researching for IT products and services has increased
Unlike the other markets surveyed, advertisement is regarded as one of the most regular information sources for decision makers in India.