The way consumers make purchasing decisions has changed dramatically over the past 10-plus years. The ability to use Internet-connected devices to conduct research, compare competitive pricing, read user reviews—and even instantly contact family, friends, and business colleagues via social media to weigh in on the purchasing consideration—has altered the retail landscape.
According to a US Census Bureau report issued on August 15, 2014, B2C e-commerce sales in the second quarter of 2014 increased 4.9% over the first quarter of 2014 and accounted for 6.4% of total retail sales.1 Between the second quarter of 2013 and the same quarter 2014, e-commerce sales increased an estimated 15.7%, outpacing the growth of total retail sales, which grew by only an estimated 4.4%. This trend is expected to accelerate as consumers become more comfortable with and savvy about engaging with e-commerce platforms.
While consumers have adapted their buying habits and are taking of advantage of the benefits of online shopping, B2B e-commerce is still evolving. According to a May 2014 Forbes article, “Why E-Commerce Still Isn’t Clicking with B2B Executives,” the barrier to growth has not been the buyer, but rather the seller.2 The same easy-access, comparative shopping experience offered by B2C businesses has yet to translate to the business-to-business sector. However, that is changing, especially as the B2B market finds itself threatened by competition from online consumer giants such as Amazon, Google, and eBay—competitors who are more than willing to fill the online vacuum.
So how are laboratory owners and managers tapping into online resources to make their purchasing decisions? Overwhelmingly, these decision-makers are using the Internet to conduct research prior to making the purchase. This was confirmed by a recently conducted e-survey of our Inside Dental Technology readership. The intent was to more fully understand how industry decision-makers are using online resources to make their purchasing decisions.
The results of the online poll indicate that when buying expensive capital equipment, multiple channels of information are being used before a decision is made. More than half of the respondents access the manufacturer’s website to glean additional information, while just under 50% also perform comparison analyses on dental product websites. But when faced with a significant outlay of cash, more than 60% of respondents say they attend a trade show to learn more about the equipment being considered for purchase. For supplies, a majority of laboratory owners and managers conduct research online, but rely on the one-on-one interaction with a manufacturer representative to make the purchase.
See pages 18 and 20 for an infographic summary of the survey results.
1. Quarterly Retail E-Commerce Sales 2nd Quarter 2014. U.S. Census Bureau News. http://www.census.gov/retail/mrts/www/data/pdf/ec_current.pdf. Published August 15, 2014. Accessed October 5, 2014.
2. Why E-Commerce Still Isn’t Clicking with B2B Executives. Forbes. http://www.forbes.com/sites/brianwalker/2014/05/06/why-e-commerce-still-isnt-clicking-with-b2b-executives/. Published May 6, 2014. Accessed October 5, 2014.