What Engineers Want from a Manufacturer’s Website
Monday, July 18, 2022
Layer One - Digital Marketing Specialist - Chris Renaud
How engineers buy has changed. They no longer rely solely on sales reps for information and product solutions – they want to do their own research online before making a final decision. This move to digital first has been in part driven by B2C trends. Amazon and other large retail companies have long provided a more relevant and personalized shopping experience that B2B buyers now expect in their professional lives.
But the pandemic accelerated this trend, moving more shopping and buying online as interactions were forced remote. According to Gartner, in the “new B2B buying journey,” buyers such as engineers spend just 17% of their time meeting with potential suppliers. When choosing between multiple options, this number may drop to as little as 5% of their time.
With a world of information at their fingertips, engineers no longer need sales representatives to be their primary source of information. Instead, they spend a lot of time digging into technical resources, reading trade magazines and online articles, watching webinars and scouring reports they find through Google.
As older generations transition into retirement, young, tech-savvy workers take their place. The same sales strategies that worked 50 years ago no longer resonate with the modern workforce. Young professionals regularly screen their phones to prevent unwanted sales calls and block emails from unknown senders. It is more challenging than ever to get your products in front of the people who matter.
As a result, engineers are often more than 57% through their purchasing decision before contacting a sales rep, according to Gartner. Engineers are more likely to choose a supplier with a quality web experience over one that still relies on traditional sales techniques. Given this reality, how can your manufacturing company stand out?
Why is catering to engineers important?
Engineers play a vital role in the shopping and selection process. Because they have specialized knowledge, engineers are often in charge of finding the best products for their company. Once they find a manufacturer to partner with, engineers are also responsible for building a case to convince management to allocate funds. Although many departments may be involved in the B2B buying process, engineers often have an outsized say in what is purchased and from whom.
What do engineers want from a manufacturer’s website?
Engineers are under pressure to meet short deadlines and reduce expenditure, while ensuring quality in the final product. They don’t want to spend unnecessary time on the phone with a salesperson – they want to browse product and pricing information quickly. Because of this, manufacturers must present engineers with a concise, helpful online shopping experience.
For a manufacturer’s website to make a lasting impression on an engineer, it must:
Have effective, product-driven search – Customers count on streamlined, easy-to-navigate ecommerce sites. They want the ability to type in a product number, description or application and immediately find the information they need. To meet these expectations, your website must have a user-friendly interface that’s easy to navigate and robust with filterable search options.
Include detailed product information – When an engineer begins their shopping journey, they often know what they are looking for – they just have to find it. Engineers don’t want to wade through fluffy marketing language, and they don’t want to talk to a sales rep for basic information; they want concise descriptions and specifications. With detailed product information, you can help engineers find your product and make a purchasing decision more quickly. Consider including:
- Product features
- Problems the product solves
- Compatible components/tools/software/systems
- Available quality-test results
- Available assets (like BIM files)
Cater to various stages of the sale – As they move through various stages of product or project development, engineers are continually testing new solutions. Purchasing begins with an awareness that something is needed. Engineers will begin their journey by broadly researching solutions and reading articles from engineering publications. They may also visit forums and ask for recommendations from their peers.
When they know where they want to go, they need a deeper knowledge of their options. To do this, they will visit manufacturers’ and distributors’ websites to view technical resources, whitepapers and case studies. Then, because the final product needs to fit into existing frameworks and systems, they will experiment. At this phase, an engineer may want to test your product before making a decision.
Make it easy to buy – Often, management, sales, purchasing and operations are also involved in the final purchasing decision. Your website must offer a frictionless shopping experience. More often than not, B2B buying online is more complicated than it needs to be. If your website requires too many steps to make a final purchase, your customers will become frustrated and look to a competitor to streamline this process.
You must provide quality customer support, free trials and an easy reordering system, the latter of which caters to repeat buyers who usually don’t need human interaction. If you don’t sell directly on your website, make it easy for a buyer to connect to a distributor in their area to complete the sale.
Don’t hide information in PDFs – It is common for manufacturers to put the most critical information such as MSDS sheets, product specs or industry-specific application support into downloadable PDFs. Unfortunately, this practice can be frustrating for potential buyers. PDFs aren’t easy to access on mobile devices and cannot be updated to reflect changes in price, policy or product data. Thus, they are unlikely to be up to date.
Additionally, PDF-only content may hurt your chances of ranking well on Google, which means you’re making it more difficult for customers to find you. To ensure customers have the information they need to make an informed purchasing decision, make it easy for them to find it by placing it directly on the website’s product pages, and in videos and blogs instead of hiding it in a PDF.
Know when to support the engineer offline – Especially early in the sales cycle for a new purchase or a previously purchased product with different specs, an engineer needs omnichannel support. They want to talk with a technical specialist or a sales rep to figure out product configurations, applications and other use-case questions. According to McKinsey, 76% of B2B buyers find it helpful to speak to a salesperson when they are researching a new product or service. That figure falls to around 50% for repeat purchases of products with new or different specifications.
Offer useful features – Besides providing information and being easy to use, your website must include several advanced features such as product recommendations, easy ordering options, price negotiation, AI chatbots for support and more. Many customers may also want inventory management and automated reordering software.
The B2B buying journey is complex and often incorporates various departments and decision-makers, most of whom spend a significant portion of their time browsing datasheets, articles and websites for the best product options. An engineer is just one of the influencers on the sale, and they often don’t want to be found by a seller. Rather than searching for engineers to sell to, you must help them find your company by investing in a quality website and a seamless shopping experience.
What is the cost of not acting?
The way engineers shop and buy online is changing. According to Merit, the majority of B2B buyers are now Millennials, the oldest of whom is in their early 40s. Among Millennial buyers, more than 56% reported that digital channels are their top method for researching new services and products, just ahead of peers, colleagues and salespeople. Additionally, estimates show that by 2027, digital B2B sales will increase more than 70% to $20.9 trillion.
Whether you’re supporting the selection process and a purchase is happening on a different channel, or you’re selling direct, don’t be complacent. If an engineer can’t find what they need on your website, they will source what they need from another manufacturer. Support your sales team and channel partners with a robust shopping experience that draws engineers in and keeps them there for the long haul.
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