What B2B Buyers Rely On to Make Purchase Decisions

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Earlier this month, TrustRadius published the findings of its fifth annual B2B buying disconnect research. The 2021 B2B Buying Disconnect report is based on two surveys that were conducted in September of this year.

One was a survey of 907 individuals who are involved in making business technology purchases for their organization, and the second was a survey of 227 individuals who work for technology vendors in a sales or marketing capacity. More than 75% of the respondents in these surveys were based in the United States.

In my last post, I described some of the characteristics of the technology buying process identified by the TrustRadius research. In this post, I'll discuss what the TrustRadius study discovered about how technology buyers learn about products or services and research potential purchases. I'll also review where there are still disconnects between technology buyers and sellers.

It's important to note that the TrustRadius research focused exclusively on the attributes of technology sales and purchases and on the attitudes and behaviors of technology buyers and vendors. Therefore, the results of the TrustRadius surveys may not be completely applicable to all types of B2B purchases and sales. However, these research findings are relevant for those that involve high-consideration products or services.

Information Used to Inform Buying Decisions

A primary focus of the TrustRadius surveys has been to identify what sources of information technology buyers use to inform and support purchase decisions and which sources they view as trustworthy and influential. The latest survey found that buyers used an average of 6.9 sources of information when researching potential purchases, up from 5.1 sources in last year's survey.

The sources of information most widely used by technology buyers have not changed for the past five years, although their rank order has varied slightly. In the latest TrustRadius buyer survey, the five most frequently used sources of information were:

  1. Product demos (58% of buyer respondents)
  2. Vendor/product websites (51%)
  3. User reviews (45%)
  4. Vendor representatives (43%)
  5. Free trials/accounts (41%)

The Disconnect - In the seller survey, TrustRadius asked technology vendors what marketing tactics they used to engage buyers in 2020. The following table compares the percentage of sellers using each marketing tactic (the top 5 identified by seller respondents) with the percentage of buyer respondents who reported using that source of information. As the table shows, buyers and sellers generally agree about the importance of product demos and vendor/product websites, but sellers overvalue the importance of marketing collateral, case studies, and customer references.


Information Trust and Influence

TrustRadius also asked technology buyers about the trustworthiness and influence of the information sources they use to support purchase decisions. Three of the five most widely used sources of information - free trials/accounts, product demos, and user reviews - also received high marks from buyers for trustworthiness and influence. This suggests that buyers favor sources of information that provide direct hands-on experience with a product and those that feature the opinions of actual users of a product or service.

The Disconnect - Only one of the three most trusted and influential sources of information - product demos - is among the top five marketing tactics used by vendors. In addition, three of the marketing tactics most widely used by vendors - marketing collateral, case studies, and customer references - were not rated highly by buyers for trustworthiness or influence.

How Buyers First Learn About Products

The top three ways that technology buyers first learn about new products are:

  1. Their own prior experience with the product (25% of buyer survey respondents)
  2. Recommendations from their network (15%)
  3. Online search for top products (15%)

On this issue, there isn't much of a disconnect between buyers and sellers. In the TrustRadius seller survey, the respondents identified the same three top ways that buyers first learn about products. 

One noteworthy difference between buyers and sellers relates to industry events. Nearly half of the surveyed sellers (49%) believe that buyers first learn about products at conferences and tradeshows, but only 10% of surveyed buyers said they first learn about products at such events.

The buyers' response on this point may have been influenced by the absence of in-person events this year, but it also may be that sellers tend to overestimate how often buyers first learn about products at conferences and tradeshows.


Top image courtesy of Jinx! via Flickr CC.

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