Study: Tech Buyers Turn to Web, Company Brochures

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Business buyers of technology products rank the Internet and company-sponsored brochures and catalogs among the top sources of information they use when considering purchases, according to a new study by IntelliQuest Information Group Inc., Austin, TX.


The study found that people who help decide how companies spend money on PCs, printers, software and networking technology turn to computer publications as their single most prominent information source, with the Internet, computer professionals and company-sponsored communications rounding out the top four.


The study, "The Technology Buyers: A Study of Business Buyer Segmentation, Purchase Process and Information Sources," was jointly underwritten by media and marketing firm Ziff-Davis, New York, and information technology media company International Data Group, Boston.


The study also divides the business influencers, or people involved in technology buys, into five groups ranging from big-budget "IS spenders" who have broad technology knowledge and wide corporate influence to "budget-conscious middle management," who have moderate departmental influence and control few purchasing dollars. The report breaks down how the people in each segment fit into the buying process and gives the average budget of each group over the next 12 months.


"As far as we know, this is the first study that has attempted … to understand the business buyer market segmentation and the way they're involved in the purchase process, which really gives marketers a good idea of how they need to target their messages," said Elda Vale, vice president of corporate research and analysis at Ziff-Davis.


IntelliQuest interviewed more than 2,200 individuals representative of the 25.8 million people in the United States who are personally involved in the purchase of computer-related products. The names were drawn from IntelliQuest's Computer Industry Media Study v4.0 Business Influencer database.


The study measured a range of technology information sources, including television, radio, seminars, trade shows, salespeople, paid consultants and various types of journals and publications. With a couple exceptions, the same four sources were at the top of the different buyer segments' lists, though to varying degrees.


However, the technology buyers indicated differences in the number of information sources they use and at what point in the purchase process they turn to different sources. For example, small company brass, who made up one of the larger groups of buyers studied, rated computer brochures and catalogs high on their list for keeping them up to date and helping them evaluate products and brands. But when specifying where to actually make a technology purchase, the group turned less frequently to brochures and catalogs as an information source than to friends, relatives and co-workers.


The buyers themselves also had varying degrees of influence within their companies.


"There's one group that's more involved in brand selection, another group that's more involved in identifying the need, which is the image component of branding. This study gives [marketers] a real clear understanding of how they should be targeting those groups," Vale said.


IntelliQuest conducted focus groups before the larger study to make sure purchasers didn't confuse sources like computer publications with computer brochures, said Vale, who added that the study broadly defined use of the Internet and World Wide Web to include any use of those media whatsoever.


"The objectives of this study were a 40,000 foot view -- what people are using," she said.
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