Computer Purchasers Rank Direct Above Retail

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A recent survey of people who influence computer-purchase decisions at their place of work rank the direct channel -- including mail-order, telephone and the Internet -- higher than other purchasing channels in several attributes, including value, reliability, product availability and up-to-date product inventory.


The survey, conducted by IntelliQuest, Austin, TX, reported that 75 percent of respondents found the direct channel to be a good value, compared with 64 percent who cited retail channels as a good value, 41 percent for value-added resellers/dealers and 23 percent for field-sales representatives from manufacturers.


Eighty percent cited the direct channel as being a reliable source for computer products, compared with 54 percent for value-added resellers/dealers, 48 percent for other retailers and 45 percent for field sales representatives.


Direct narrowly beat retail in the product-availability category, with 83 percent of respondents citing the direct channel as having good product availability vs. 81 percent who awarded that attribute to the retail channel. The direct channel was rated the highest for offering the latest technologies, cited by 82 percent of business consumers. Retail was cited by 50 percent, followed by value-added resellers with 46 percent and field sales representatives with 43 percent.


Direct also was cited as having flexible payment options by 65 percent of respondents, compared with 59 percent for retail, 38 percent for value-added resellers and 23 percent for field sales representatives.


"Today's buyers are looking for purchasing sources that provide them with the best values, the widest selection and the most reliability," said Al DiGuido, executive vice president and group publisher of Computer Shopper, which sponsored the survey. "Today's buyers are looking for purchasing sources that provide them with the best values, the widest selection and the most reliability."


In some categories, however, retail won out over the direct channel. Retail was cited as having the lowest prices by 81 percent of respondents vs. 76 percent for the direct channel. Retail also was cited as offering the broadest selection of products by 72 percent of respondents vs. 70 percent for the direct channel.


For providing both pre- and post-sale consulting and advice, the value-added resellers were ranked the highest, followed by the direct channel. Other retailers ranked last in both categories, behind field sales representatives.


The survey also found that 73 percent of respondents had purchased computer-related products through direct channels during the past 12 months, compared with 66 percent who had purchased through retail, 48 percent through value-added resellers and 20 percent through field sales representatives. Direct was the preferred channel for all types of computer products except ink jet printers, which 49 percent of respondents said they had purchased through retail channels, compared with 35 percent who purchased through direct channels.


In predicting their purchasing patterns for the year ahead, the respondents indicated they would spend 46 percent of their budgets for computer-related products in direct channels, 22 percent with value-added resellers/dealers, 21 percent with other retailers and 5 percent with field sales representatives.


The survey included 437 members of IntelliQuest's Technology Panel, who hail from a range of industries. Sixteen percent of the respondents work in the education field, and another 10 percent work for the federal, state or local government, the two largest employer groups.
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