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  • 1. The annual survey of changing B2B buyer behaviourREPORT 2011IN ASSOCIATION WITH:
  • 2. 2CONTENTSThe buyersphere 4About the survey 6The findings 14Where do buyers get their information? 15How has this changed since last year? 16Which channel has the most influence? 18...and by country? 19The complete buying cycle 21Influence vs usage 25The perception vs the reality... 28European views compared 29The pros & cons of social media 31Should buyers give you their data? 36How do buyers share content? 37A word of thanks 39ABOUT THIS REPORTThe Buyersphere is not a small piece of research.This is not, therefore, a small document. Print itout, and several small trees will pay the pricefor your curiosity.But our thoroughness in researching buyerbehaviour should give you confidence that theseare concrete, reliable findings. They can be usedto convince your clients, persuade your bosses,defend your decisions, or simply to give youinspiration. Either way, we hope they are useful,and that you will understand the need for therather lengthy but necessary description of thesurvey participants and of the methodologieswe used.Get through that and it’s pure research gold.
  • 3. 4 5THE BUYERSWHAT?Social media, economic uncertainty and anincreased appetite for information has a hugeeffect on buyer behaviour. The Buyersphere isthe new world of business to business buyingand the behaviours within it. We commissionedthis report into the buying mindsets, decisionsand processes of buyers across all sectors and inthe different economies of Europe, giving us aunique report and invaluable resource for allB2B marketers.Base One have commissioned a research study to explore the extentto which B2B decision-makers are using social media tools andchannels to help them in the process of refining their needs andidentifying suitable suppliers for major business purchases. Thesurvey was conducted online, administered and analysed by marketresearch specialists McCallum Layton, among business respondentsprovided by online panel provider Toluna. This was the second timethat this survey had been carried out, with the first wave conductedin December 2009.In order to qualify, respondents had to have been personally involvedin the decision-making process for any type of purchase over £20,000that had been completed on behalf of their business in the last 12months. Questions focused on this particular purchase, in order toensure the findings are specific to actual experiences and decisions.The survey was carried out in March 2011. A total of 1017 decision-makers took part. Unlike the original wave of research, which wasconducted in the UK only, the 2011 project included interviews inFrance (151), Germany (163), Italy (100) and Belgium (102) as well asthe UK (501).THE BUYERSPHERE
  • 4. 6 7WHO TAKES A SURVEY LIKE THIS? Before looking at the results in detail, it is necessary to consider theprofile of those answering the survey, as this provides importantcontext when considering the implications of the findings.No single sector accounted for more than 17% of respondents at theoverall level. There were some differences by country: manufacturingorganisations were most strongly represented in France, and leastin Italy, where the response from retail / wholesale companies wasabove average. Belgian respondents were over twice more likely thanthe European average to be working in public administrationA good mix of company sizes were represented in this survey. Almosta third of respondents came from smaller companies with up to 100employees, whilst at the other end of the scale, almost a quarter ofthose taking part worked in companies employing over 1000 people.Three in ten responses came from those in IT, whilst finance and HRroles made up another 18% and 12% respectively. No other job rolewas given by more than 4% of respondents, illustrating the variety ofdecision makers participating in the project.A broad spectrum of age groups was represented, as illustratedabove. Both those aged over 50 (22%) and those under 30 (14%) wererepresented. Almost two thirds fell into the 31-50 age group. Almosthalf had been in their current role for over 6 years. Only 5% were newto their role, having been in the position for under 12 months, whilsta further 23% had been in their role for 2-3 years.From small companies to massive multinationals,from manufacturing and retail to education andagriculture, we surveyed people of all ages, at alllevels, across five different economies in Europeto get the most reflective and robust findingspossible. And because we surveyed not just whatpeople thought, but also what they actually did,the discoveries aren’t just interesting, some ofthe findings are game-changing...ABOUT THE SURVEY
  • 5. 8 9The purchase recently made was most frequently IT or telecomsequipment, which is unsurprising, given that almost a third ofrespondents worked in an IT related role. The main purchasecategories are illustrated in the graphic.Purchase categoryWhilst IT and manufacturing equipment were the most commontypes of purchase made recently across all countries, the Italianresults also showed a more considerable number of purchasesof consultancy services, property/land and support services thanelsewhere in Europe. As respondents were asked about their mostrecent purchase only, this could suggest that Italian respondentswere amongst the most likely to have bought a combination ofdifferent products/services within their last transaction.Purchase detailsFor 38% of respondents, the purchase made was somethingcompletely new to their business. For 47% it was something thatwas the same or similar to something that had been purchased inthe past, with 15% claiming both descriptions were true. Italianrespondents were most likely to feel their purchase fit into bothcategories (32%), backing up the theory that they were most likelyto be buying combined services/products.Those in organisations with 1,000 or fewer employees were morelikely to be purchasing something new (41%) compared to theircounterparts in larger companies (30%).WHO BOUGHT WHAT?NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES IN COMPANY AND JOB ROLEABOUT THE SURVEY0 1Over 1000Up to 100251-500501-1000101-250ITFinanceHRMD/CEO/Partner/Senior ManagementManager/General Managementplus others at 1%The profile of the Italian companies responding was smaller than average (51% had up to 100 employees).Belgian organisations were larger than average. (34% employing over 1,000 people).6-10 years2-3 yearsUnder 1 yearOver 10 years4-5 years51-6031-40Over 60Up to 3041 50MAIN BUSINESS ACTIVITY OF RESPONDENTS’ COMPANIESNUMBER OF EMPLOYEES IN COMPANY AND JOB ROLELENGTH OF TIME IN CURRENT ROLE AND RESPONDENT AGE0 5 10 15ManufacturingBase: all respondents (1,017)17%13%11%8%7%7%7%6%5%5%4%4%2%1%Business servicesRetail/wholesalePublic administrationTransport/storage/communicationConstructionFinancial servicesHealthEducationCommunity/social/personal servicesHotel/resturant/cateringUtilitiesAgriculture/forestry/fishingMiningUKIT/ Telecoms equipment or systemsManufacturing equipmentProperty or landSupport servicesConsultancy servicesGERMANYIT/ Telecoms equipment or systemsManufacturing equipmentProperty or landSupport servicesConsultancy servicesBELGIUMIT/ Telecoms equipment or systemsManufacturing equipmentProperty or landSupport servicesConsultancy servicesITALYIT/ Telecoms equipment or systemsManufacturing equipmentProperty or landSupport servicesConsultancy servicesOVERALLIT/ Telecoms equipment or systemsManufacturing equipmentProperty or landSupport servicesConsultancy servicesFRANCEIT/ Telecoms equipment or systemsManufacturing equipmentProperty or landSupport servicesConsultancy services
  • 6. 10 11Those spending over £50k were more likely to make contact duringthe process of identifying potential suppliers (69%) than thosespending less (58%), possibly reflecting the increased importanceof making sure the best supplier is chosen as the investment sizeincreases.Familiarity with the purchase itself did have some influence oncontact patterns. Those buying something completely new to theirbusiness were more likely to make contact with potential suppliersearly on, when they were defining their need.Whilst it is perhaps unsurprising that those with no experience ofpurchasing a product tend to seek early clarification, it is interestingthat this pattern did not continue into the later stages of thepurchase process. In fact, those purchasing something more familiarmade more contact during the final selection process.0 100While looking tounderstand or define needIn process of identifyingpotential suppliersIn making finalsupplier selectionNone of thesePurchase completely new to business (387)Purchase similar to previous purchases (474)CONTACT WITH POTENTIAL SUPPLIERS - BY REPEAT/NEW PURCHASEABOUT THE SURVEYOver half of purchases were for under £/¤ 30,000 (56%), whilst 17%were for over £/¤ 100,000. Unsurprisingly, those in companies withover 1,000 employees spent more on average.INVOLVEMENT IN THE PURCHASE PROCESSEven though the purchases being evaluated were relatively large,at least four in ten respondents reported that they were solelyresponsible for each stage of the purchase process.Respondents were asked whether they had made contact withpotential suppliers at each stage of the procurement process. In orderto ensure the question was being answered consistently, a definitionof ‘contact’ was displayed when this question was asked:“By ‘direct contact’ we mean any contact that could have resultedin the suppliers providing a response. So telephone calls or filling inenquiry forms via websites would count, but passively looking at asupplier website would not.”Contact with potential suppliers was slightly more common duringthe shortlisting stage than before or after, although results didindicate a considerable amount of interaction occurring throughoutthe process.Respondents in Belgium were least likely to have made any contact inthe two stages prior to making their final choice of supplier. In total,45% of Belgian respondents interacted with suppliers when lookingto define their need, and this figure did not increase much during theprocess of identifying potential suppliers (49%).STAGE IN THE PROCESSLooking to understand or define the needLooking to understand or define the needLooking to understand or define the need51%61%44%PROPORTION OF RESPONDENTSCONTACTING SUPPLIERSBase: all respondents (1,017)WHEN WERE SUPPLIERS INVOLVED?
  • 7. 12 13The chart above breaks down all the contact reported, to separateout single stage contacts from those engaging with suppliers morefrequently during the purchase process. Over half of respondentsmade contact at one stage only, whilst almost four in ten engagedwith suppliers multiple times during the purchase process.Interestingly, where there was engagement at multiple stages,this tended to be on-going throughout the entire purchase process,rather than at a specific combination of 2 out of the 3 stages.STAGE IN THE PROCESSANY PERSONALINVOLVEMENT MAIN DRIVERSOLERESPONSIBILITYLooking to understandor define the needLooking to understandor define the needLooking to understandor define the need40%51%49%95%92%93%80%78%77%Base: all respondents (1,017)PERSONAL INVOLVEMENT IN THE PURCHASE PROCESSThose completing the survey had a high level of involvement inthe purchase process. Almost all had at least some influence oneach stage of the decision making process, and over three quartersidentified themselves as the main driver at each stage. Even thoughthe purchases being evaluated were relatively large, at least four inten respondents reported that they were solely responsible for eachstage of the purchase process.Breaking the results down by country suggested that those inBelgium had less involvement than average (88% were involved inidentifying the need, 76% helped identify potential suppliers and 79%were involved in the final selection).Unsurprisingly, the larger the purchase, the less likely respondentswere to report having sole responsibility for the decision. Forpurchases over £50k / ¤50, 30% had sole responsibility for identifyingthe need, 41% for identifying potential suppliers and 35% for the finalsupplier selection.ABOUT THE SURVEYWHO MADE THE DECISIONS?Only when lookingto define needOnly whenidentifying suppliersFinal 2 stagesAll 3 stagesFirst 2 stagesNot at allOnly when makingfinal selectionFirst andthird stagesContactat multiplestages: 39%Contact atsingle stageonly 55%POINTS IN THE PURCHASE PROCESS AT WHICH POTENTIAL SUPPLIERS WERE CONTACTED
  • 8. 14 15THE FINDINGSTOTALSAny traditional onliineAny offlineAny new online/social mediaBase: All involved in at least one stage of the desicion making process (964)Supplier websitesWeb searchesIndustry press (print)E-mails from suppliersWord of mouthDirect mailPress advertisingOnline events/webinarsOffline events/seminarsFacebookBlogsLinked InTraditional online Offline New online/social mediaTwitterOther social mediaINFORMATION SOURCES USED AT ANY STAGE OF THE PROCESSTHE FINDINGSBuyer behaviour has changed totally over thelast few years, and we all know that buyershave greater control over the way they researchinformation to support their purchases. Butbefore you invest every last cent in social media,be aware that ‘traditional online’ channels areby far the most influential. Email, web searchesand supplier websites far outstrip Facebook andfriends – for now...WHERE DO BUYERS GET INFORMATION?Those who indicated they had at least some involvement at eachstage of the purchase were shown a list of information sourcesand asked which ones they had used at that particular point in theprocess. The chart above illustrates the proportion of respondentsusing each of the sources at any time during the decision makingprocess. Further stage by stage breakdowns are shown later inthis section.Supplier websites and web searches were clearly the most frequentlyused sources of information overall. The results showed thattraditional online sources were most commonly utilised, followedby offline, with new online and social media sources used much lessfrequently overall. However, even though new media is the leastused, four in ten decision makers are now incorporating the use ofthese tools into at least some part of their decision making process.Buyers under 30 are more likely to use new social media, with 15%using blogs to select suppliers, for example, compared to just 5% ofover-30s. As this younger generation progresses into decision makingroles, we may therefore see social media usage levels increasefurther.40% of B2B buyers use socialmedia at some point in buyingprocess #buyersphere11 a tweet?
  • 9. 16 17INFORMATION SOURCES USED AT ANY STAGE OF THE PURCHASE PROCESS 2010COMPATED TO 2011 (UK ONLY)THE FINDINGSHOW THIS CHANGED SINCE LAST YEAROne of the biggest changes in buyer behaviouris the growing appetite for information. This isto be expected as we move from a traditionaloutbound model to an inbound model wherebrands need to produce more and more contentto satisfy the hunger.Yet while most channels were used more thanin last year’s report, offline events have seen asignificant decrease. Has the sheer convenienceof webinars made physical events a marketingtool of the past? Comparing the latest UK results with those recorded in 2010 showsthat usage patterns have changed somewhat. The informationsources that were most frequently used in 2010 have seen a reportedincrease in use, suggesting perhaps that buyers are sourcingincreasing amounts of information during the purchase process.The greatest increase was seen for online events / webinars, withuse almost trebling to 27% from 10% in 2010. Interestingly, this wascoupled with a drop in use of offline events or seminars. This couldreflect that more buyers are finding the time and cost effectivenessof an online approach a real benefit, compared with actuallybooking onto and taking time out of the office to attend a traditionalseminar.Use of some types of social media during the purchase process hasincreased slightly, with 16% now using Facebook and 14% Linked Incompared with 9% and 7% respectively in 2010.Base: All involved in at least one stage of the desicion making process2010 2011Supplier websitesWeb searchesIndustry press (print)Word of mouthDirect mailPress advertisingOnline events/webinarsOffline events/seminarsFacebookBlogsLinked InTwitterOther social mediaB2B buyer usage ofwebinars has more thandoubled. Attendance at realevents has almost halved.#buyersphere11 usage amongst B2Bbuyers up from 9% to 16%#buyersphere11 a tweet?Worth a tweet?
  • 10. 18 19Looking at overall influence scores combining all three stages of thedecision making process illustrates that despite a drop in use, offlineevents and seminars remain the most likely to be perceived as ‘veryinfluential’. New online media channels such as blogs, other socialmedia and Twitter also appear near the top of this list, although it isimportant to note when looking at the proportions giving 9-10 out of10 here, the level of variation is relatively low.Other social media was the channel most likely to be given a scoreof 1-6 out of 10 for influence (by 28% of those providing a rating).This does suggest a certain level of polarisation of opinion for thisinformation source.Base: All using each channel in at least one stage of the decision making process9-10 7-8 1-6Supplier websites (656)Web searches (628)Industry press (print) (216)E-mails from suppliers (386)Word of mouth (320)Direct mail (299)Press advertising (256)Online events/webinars (206)Offline events/seminars (176)Facebook (249)Blogs (152)Linked In (112)Twitter (93)Other social media (95)WHICH HAS THE MOST INFLUENCE?A channel’s influence can often be surprising.For example, the influence of the offline seminaris far stronger than that of the webinar, yet weknow that seminars are used far less frequently,so perhaps they shouldn’t be replaced by theironline counterparts after all...THE FINDINGSINFORMATION SOURCE GERMANY66%53%33%58%28%35%30%25%19%22%20%15%15%13%ITALY70%81%54%46%37%35%37%13%29%13%16%7%14%8%BELGIUM73%66%43%30%36%25%15%16%14%5%2%2%3%5%TOTAL68%65%40%45%33%31%27%21%18%15%12%10%12%10%UK70%65%40%48%35%31%27%27%18%16%12%11%14%11%FRANCE58%36%67%27%28%21%28%13%8%6%13%4%5%6%Base: all respondents (1,017)Supplier websitesWeb searchesIndustry press (print)E-mails from suppliersWord of mouthDirect mailPress advertisingOnline events/webinarsOffline events/seminarsFacebookBlogsLinked InTwitterOther social mediaANY TRADITIONAL ONLINEANY NEW ONLINE/SOCIAL MEDIAANY OFFLINE84%79%93%74%89%70%88%74%89%76%87%48% 35% 26%40% 46% 22%64%...AND BY COUNTRY?Brands work on a pan-European basis more andmore, so it’s fascinating to learn that the socialmedia usage of the UK and Germany stands insharp contrast to that of France, Italy, & Belgium.Are we looking at a two-tier Europe?Physical events are considered“the most influential”information channel used byB2B buyers. #buyersphere11 and German B2B buyers usesocial media twice as much asFrench to research purchases.#buyersphere11 a tweet? Worth a tweet?OVERALL INFLUENCE OF INFORMATION SOURCES USED
  • 11. 20 21The table above shows information sources used in 2011 broken downby country. Green shading represents above average use, whilst redshading highlights any figures lower than average.Looking at the shaded figures does indicate distinct differences inFrance and Belgium, where use of several sources was lower thanthat seen in the rest of Europe. Meanwhile, Italian respondentsrecorded above average levels of use for 4 sources of information,particularly web searches. Buyers in France in particular placed moreemphasis on information from traditional online sources than theircounterparts in other western European countries.Overall, four in ten used information from new online or social mediasources, although this was again much lower in Belgium (26%) andFrance (22%).THE FINDINGSTHE COMPLETE BUYING CYCLEThe nearer the buyer gets to signing on thedotted line, the more influential the informationsources become. Take a look at how usageand influence change at three key stages inthe buying cycle: need identification, supplieridentification, and final supplier selection.INFORMATION SOURCES USED IN IDENTIFYING AND DEFINING NEEDAs well as looking at overall use, it is useful to look at each stagein the purchase process individually. The chart above illustratesinformation use to help buyers identify and define their need.Supplier websites and more general web searches were clearly themost frequently used information sources at this stage. Three in tenused new online or social media to help identify their need, withwebinars and Facebook most often utilised. Only 5% said they did notuse any of the listed information sources at this stage.TOTALSAny traditional onliineAny offlineAny new online/social mediaBase: All involved in identifying and defining need (963)Supplier websitesWeb searchesIndustry press (print)E-mails from suppliersWord of mouthDirect mailPress advertisingOnline events/webinarsOffline events/seminarsFacebookBlogsLinked InTraditional online Offline New online/social mediaTwitterOther social mediaNone15% of German B2B buyersuse Twitter as part of purchaseprocess. Only 2% of Belgiansdo so. #buyersphere11 a tweet?
  • 12. 22 23Use of sources to help define needs did vary slightly by country,particularly use of industry press, which was lower in France (17%)and Belgium (21%) but higher in Germany (43%). As was the case inthe overall picture, use of several sources was lower in Belgium thanelsewhere, with 11% of Belgian respondents saying they used none ofthe listed channels.Use of industry press, word of mouth, offline events/seminars andother social media was lower in 2011 at this stage than last year.However, use of online events / webinars increased slightly to 17%from 12% in 2010.Younger purchasers were more likely to use Facebook (24%) orTwitter (11%) to help define or identify needs than their counterpartsaged over 30 (10% and 5% respectively).INFORMATION SOURCES USED IN IDENTIFYING POTENTIAL SUPPLIERSAgain, when buyers moved on to identifying potential suppliers, aclear pattern was evident, in which traditional online informationsources were used most, followed by offline sources. New onlinesources were again used by three in ten buyers at this stage,although there is evidence to suggest that online webinars arestarting to displace traditional seminars.Use of new online/social media was average in France and Belgium.Although 8% of all buyers used blogs at this stage, in Belgium thefigure was under 1%, whilst 14% of Belgian respondents used none ofthe listed channels. In Italy, there was an above average tendency touse traditional online sources (web searches 64%, supplier websites60%, e-mails from suppliers 34%).TOTALSAny traditional onliineAny offlineAny new online/social mediaBase: All involved in identifying and defining need (963)Supplier websitesWeb searchesIndustry press (print)E-mails from suppliersWord of mouthDirect mailPress advertisingOnline events/webinarsOffline events/seminarsFacebookBlogsLinked InTraditional online Offline New online/social mediaTwitterOther social mediaNoneThis greater level of online usage did not yet translate into higherthan average adoption of new online tools or social media however.Younger purchasers were more likely to use Facebook to help identifypotential suppliers (18% compared with 9% of those aged over30). There was less difference by age in the use of other new mediasources at this stage.Comparing 2010 and 2011 UK results showed a large decrease inthe use of events/seminars (34% down to 11%) and word of mouthinformation (45% to 25%) at this stage. Use of online events andwebinars increased, however, from 8% to 17%.INFORMATION SOURCES USED IN SELECTING FINAL SUPPLIERUse of the listed information sources was lowest at the end of thedecision making process, during the selection of the final supplier,although the proportion using none of the sources remained low at7%. Again, traditional online channels were most frequently used,whilst just under a quarter used new online / social media.Again, use of several information sources was lower in Belgium andFrance, particularly the social media channels (Facebook, Linked Inand Twitter were each used by just 1% of respondents in Belgiumat this stage). Italian respondents were again more likely than theircounterparts in other countries to use web searches (58%) ande-mails from suppliers (37%). They were also more likely than averageto have attended seminars or offline events (18%).TOTALSAny traditional onliineAny offlineAny new online/social mediaBase: All involved in identifying potential sales (933)Supplier websitesWeb searchesIndustry press (print)E-mails from suppliersWord of mouthDirect mailPress advertisingOnline events/webinarsOffline events/seminarsFacebookBlogsLinked InTraditional online Offline New online/social mediaTwitterOther social mediaNoneTHE FINDINGS
  • 13. 24 25Again the main age difference in use of information sources tohelp select a final supplier was in the level of use of Facebook (18%amongst those under 30, compared with 7% of older respondents).Younger respondents were also more likely to use blogs at this stage(15% compared with 5%).In terms of change over time in the UK, the only major differencesbetween 2010 and 2011 saw an increase in the use of web searches(from 25% to 39%) and a considerable drop in the use of events/seminars (from 27% to 9%) and word of mouth information (from40% to 23%).INFLUENCE OF INFORMATION SOURCES OVER THE THREE STAGES OFTHE PURCHASE PROCESSThe chart above illustrates changes in perceived influence ofeach source over the course of the decision making process.Although search engines were consistently listed amongst themost frequently used sources of information, they were notseen as particularly influential.Although use has dropped overall, events and seminars were stillseen as the most influential information channel at all three stages.Interestingly, blogs were also highly rated when respondents wereidentifying and defining needs, and Twitter and word of mouthrecommendations increased in influence as buyers move throughthe process.Base: All involved in each stage7.007.207.407.607.808.007.207.40Events/seminars Word of mouth Supplier website Twitter Supplier e-mailDirect mail Facebook BlogsLinked in Industry press Other social media Web searchesWebinars Press advertisingSTAGE ONEdefining needSTAGE TWOdefining suppliersSTAGE THREEchoosing supplierTHE FINDINGSBase: All in the UK who used any channel at any stage (481)Supplier websitesWeb searchesIndustry press (print)E-mails from suppliersWord of mouthDirect mailPress advertisingOnline events/webinarsOffline events/seminarsFacebookLOWERLOWERHIGHERHIGHERAVERAGEINFLUENCEOFCHANNELERALL U OF CHANNELBlogsLinked InTwitterOther socialmediaINFLUENCE VS USAGEJust because a channel is popular, doesn’t meanit’s taken seriously. This influence vs usageanalysis gives an overview of all channels,showing that supplier websites are top ofboth stakes, and perhaps Facebook isn’t anappropriate B2B tool after all...CHANNEL USAGE AND INFLUENCE – ALL RESPONDENTSCombining together the usage and influence data from across allstages of the process, it is possible to map how the various channelssit alongside each other.Whilst supplier websites and web searches were clearly the mostfrequently utilised sources of information, this chart illustrates theclear difference when it comes to influence. Supplier websites wereseen as the third most influential source as well as the most used,perhaps marking them as the most vital channel when makingpurchases of this size.Under 30s are three timesmore likely to use blogs tochoose suppliers than olderbuyers #buyersphere11 a tweet?
  • 14. 26 27THE FINDINGSNew online and social media sources of information are groupedon the left of the chart, indicating lower usage levels. However, theoverall influence of each information source did vary considerably.Facebook was far and away the least influential overall (largely dueto low influence scores during the first two phases of the purchaseprocess). However, blogs were viewed as more influential overallthan all but three of the other listed sources.CHANNEL USAGE AND INFLUENCE – UK WITH CHANGE OVERTIME INDICATEDComparing the 2010 and 2011 results in the UK is also useful,in that it shows how use and attitudes towards each of the sourcesis changing. The chart above shows the 2011 results for the UK.Coloured arrows and circles indicate movement from their2010 position.Although word of mouth and offline seminars remain the two mostinfluential sources of information in the UK, it is interesting that bothhave moved left on the chart, indicating that usage has decreasedrelative to use of other sources. This could reflect that use of thesesources is being eroded by new media channels (although theincreases recorded in new media use have been relatively small).Base: All in the UK who used any channel at any stage (481)Supplier websitesWeb searchesIndustry press (print)E-mails from suppliersWord of mouthDirect mailPress advertisingOnline events/webinarsOffline events/seminarsFacebookLOWERLOWERHIGHERHIGHERAVERAGEINFLUENCEOFCHANNELERALL U OF CHANNELBlogsLinked InTwitterOther social mediaThe movement of offline events/seminars from the top right segmentto the top left has been coupled with an increase in perceivedinfluence of online events/webinars. It is possible that the costeffectiveness of online events is becoming more attractive in thechallenging economic climate.There has been no corresponding move for social media such asTwitter and Facebook however. Both have seen a relative decreasein perceived influence. This could possibly be due to an increasedamount of use by sceptics, in response to articles in marketingpublications about the rise of these channels. Because it can benecessary to spend time building networks before these channelsstart becoming useful, those who do not reach this stage may well bewriting these tools off as less influential. However, we have no way inthis survey of separating out ‘expert’ users from new sceptics, so thisis only a hypothesis at this stage.
  • 15. 28 29THE FINDINGSTHE PERCEPTION VS THE REALITY...As the industry press declares this the year ofsocial media take-up for B2B, buyers remainunconvinced about its impact, with an equalperceived increase and decrease in usage.But where else does the perception contradictthe reality...?PERCEIVED CHANGE IN USE OF INFORMATION SOURCES – OVERALLThe questions covered in the previous section related to a specificpurchase (the most recent time they made a purchase of over£/¤20,000). More general questions were also asked to find outwhether buyers’ use of the listed information sources hadchanged overall.Search engines and supplier websites saw the greatest increase inuse. Around one in five reported an increase in use of each of thesocial media tools, but an equal proportion said use had decreased.Although use of offline events / seminars had dropped when lookingat recent purchases (see section 4 of this report), this was notcoupled with a perceived decrease overall.Supplier websitesWeb searchesIndustry press (print)E-mails from suppliersWord of mouthDirect mailPress advertisingOnline events/webinarsOffline events/seminarsFacebookBlogsLinked InTwitterOther social mediaBase: all respondents (1,017)Increased Stayed the same DecreasedBreaking these results down by country shows clear differences acrossEurope. In the UK and Germany, a net increase was recorded for mostinformation sources, although respondents in the UK were morelikely to report a decrease in the use of Twitter, and in Germany netuse of Linked In fell slightly.In Italy, a considerable increase in use of traditional online sourceswas recorded, matching the pattern seen when evaluating recentpurchases. Net decreases in use were recorded in Italy for Linked In,Twitter and other social media.EUROPEAN VIEWS COMPARED?Are buyers thirstier than ever when it comesto knowledge? We’ve seen a marked increasein perceived use across almost all channels inall countries, but does France, Italy & Belgium’sdrop in social media use indicate a bigger pictureof suspicion?INFORMATION SOURCE GERMANY58%47%30%24%27%21%17%19%12%12%8%-1%5%3%ITALY68%65%56%34%28%6%16%28%28%19%2%-9%-9%-5%BELGIUM37%43%25%14%23%14%18%5%2%-13%-15%-12%-6%-15%TOTAL56%51%34%27%29%19%16%18%15%8%1%1%1%-2%UK54%51%31%27%29%19%16%18%15%8%1%1%1%-2%FRANCE65%36%51%29%26%13%5%9%3%-6%-6%-4%-9%-8%Base: all respondentsSearch EnginesSupplier websitesE-mails from suppliersIndustry pressWord of mouthOnline events/webinarsDirect mailOffline events/seminarsPress advertisingBlogsFacebookLinked InTwitterOther social media18% of B2B buyers say they useTwitter more this year. 20% saythey use it less. #buyersphere11 a tweet?
  • 16. 30 31France and Belgium saw the most substantial net decreases in newonline/social media use. French buyers reported net decreases inuse of blogs, Facebook, Linked In, Twitter and other social media.In Belgium, this pattern was even more evident, with net decreasesof over 10% for blogs, Facebook, Linked In and Twitter. Where netincreases were reported in Belgium, these tended to be smaller thanelsewhere in Europe.PERCEIVED CHANGE IN USE OF INFORMATION SOURCES – OVERALLComparing the UK results for social media use over time indicatesthat whilst the proportion of buyers reporting an increase in the useof each information source has remained fairly stable, the groupsaying their use has decreased has grown. This is particularly the casefor blogs (6% in 2010 to 14%), Facebook (11% in 2010 to 18%) andTwitter (10% in 2010 to 18%).Online events/webinars2010201120102011201020112010201120102011FacebookBlogsLinked InTwitterIncreasedDecreasedBase: All respondents in the UK (2010: 503; 2011: 501)THE FINDINGSTHE PROS & CONS OF SOCIAL MEDIASocial media may continue to draw debate in theblogosphere, but are buyers that excited? Themain finding of our analysis of sceptics vs fansshows that there is less polarisation than lastyear. With fewer respondents citing strengthsand weaknesses, do we assume everyone isaccepting it as just another channel?
  • 17. 32 33ANY BENEFIT MENTIONEDUK AGED UP TO 30 AGED OVER 30Other peoples opinions/experiences/reviewsHonest unbiased viewsLots of good information2%3%3%3%5%3%Saves time/quick accessWide variety of informationCan get/give feedback2%2%2%2%3%3%Can see productbeing usedReliable0%0%1%1%3%0%1% 3%3%Base: all respondents (1,017)10%9% 5%30%30% 33%THE FINDINGSBENEFITS OF USING BLOGS, ONLINE COMMUNITY SITES AND ONLINEVIDEOS/WEBINARS/PODCASTS WHEN LOOKING FOR BUSINESSRELATED INFORMATIONFinally, a series of questions was asked to improve understanding ofattitudes in general towards new online sources of information.Three in ten could name a benefit of using the listed onlineinformation sources. There was no evidence of a great deal ofvariation by age in responses to this question. However, buyers havebecome less likely to name benefits of using new online informationsources (30% named benefits compared to 54% in 2010).WEAKNESSES OF BLOGS, ONLINE COMMUNITY SITES AND ONLINEVIDEOS/WEBINARS/PODCASTS WHEN LOOKING FOR BUSINESSRELATED INFORMATIONAlmost three in ten could name a weakness of new onlineinformation sources. Those aged over 30 were slightly morelikely to be able to do so. Many of the weaknesses mentionedrelated to information reliability.Buyers have also become less likely to name weaknesses of usingnew online information sources (28% did so in 2011 compared to59% in 2010). However, the issues mentioned by those who didname something have remained the same.ANY WEAKNESS MENTIONEDUK AGED UP TO 30 AGED OVER 30Don’t trust information/unreliableBiased informationQuality/accuracyof infomation4%4%4%3%1%0%Don’t know sourceof informationToo much information togo through/often irrelevantVaried opinions/too opinionated3%3%3%2%3%1%Not many people/organisations look atthose pages1%1%1%0.3%3%3%Plus other mentioned by no more than 1% of any subgroupBase: all respondents in the UK (501)5%5% 8%29%28% 22%
  • 18. 34 35SUMMARY OF OPINIONUsing the responses to the open ended questions about strengths andweaknesses, it is possible to categorise those with opinions into threegroups, as shown in the diagram above.Similar proportions of respondents were classified as ‘fans’ and‘critics’ of the listed online information sources. Fans were morelikely to be under 30 years old (15% compared to 4% of critics). Theproportion of respondents in the ‘fans’ category has increased to 31%from 19% in 2010. This represents a move from the ‘see both sides’group (55% in 2010). Unsurprisingly, critics are less likely to haveused social media to help with their last purchase (23% comparedwith 59% of fans).Of course, although when we look at those with an opinion we see anincrease in the proportion of ‘fans’, this does not take into accountthe fact that 2011 saw a far smaller proportion of buyers actuallygiving an opinion. The charts opposite illustrate the 2010 and 2011results with this ‘reserving judgement’ group included.FANCRITICSEE BOTH SIDESmention a ‘benefit’ of SM AND ‘no weakness’mention a ‘weakness’ of SM AND ‘no benefit’mention both a ‘benefit’ AND ‘weakness’ of SMTHE FINDINGSSUMMARY OF OPINION – OVER TIMEWhen those who did not give an opinion either way were included,the results show that the proportion of ‘fans’ of social media overallhas remained stable. However, the percentage that sees both sideshas fallen by more than half, and the proportion of critics droppedfrom 19% to 11%.Much of course depends on the underlying attitude of the group inthe ‘reserving judgement’ category. In 2011, most of these said theycould not think of any weaknesses or strengths of new online mediasources. This could suggest either an increasing ambivalence towardsthese channels, or perhaps more of an acceptance of them for whatthey are (i.e. they may not be seen as particularly new or differentany more, hence buyers are less likely to think of them in terms ofhaving particular strengths and weaknesses).UK 2011(501)UK 2010(503)Base: all respondents in the UKFans See both sides Critics Reserving judgement
  • 19. 36 37THE FINDINGSSHOULD BUYERS GIVE YOU THEIR DATA?Be confident with your content strategy andtread carefully with data capture, as over halfof all buyers are discouraged by it when tryingto access information. There were geographicaldifferences here too, as 22% of wary Brits saidthey were discouraged very often, double thenumber of German, French and Belgian buyers.FREQUENCY OF BEING DISCOURAGED FROM ACCESSING BUSINESSRELATED INFORMATION AS A RESULT OF HAVING TO FILL IN A DATACAPTURE FORMFinally, some new questions were asked about specific aspectsrelating to the use of online sources of information. The chart aboveillustrates reaction to having to fill in data capture forms whenaccessing business related information online.NeverVery oftenFairly oftenOccasionallyRarelyBase: All respondents (1,017)Highest in UK(22% comparedwith 17% initaly and 10-12%elsewhere)Highest inBelgium 17%Over half of respondents said that they had been discouraged fromaccessing information online because of the need to provide theirdetails. Buyers in the UK felt most strongly about this, with 22%reporting being put off ‘very often’.Only 12% said that this was ‘rarely’ or ‘never’ a concern, althoughthis figure was higher in Belgium (17% rarely, 5% never).FREQUENCY OF USING METHODS TO SHARE PROFESSIONAL CONTENTE-mail was clearly the channel most frequently used to shareprofessional content. Social media is not being as widely used for thispurpose at present, although there is still a considerable minority ofaround a quarter using Facebook and Twitter very or fairly often forthis reason.HOW DO BUYERS SHARE CONTENT?Whilst Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter aredesigned with sharing in mind, it seems thatemail and company intranet channels are farmore popular. Is it a case of more targetedsharing, or even enabling privacy?Or simply familiarity?E-mailCompany intranetBookmarking sitesFacebookBlogsTwitterBase: all respondents (1,017)Very often Fairly often Rarely NeverOccasionally33% 20% 2% 1%33% 30% 4% 6%19% 41% 11% 19%15% 35% 13% 27%16% 37% 15% 25%11% 39% 13% 29%44%27%9%9%8%7%UK B2B buyers are twice aslikely to be discouraged fromdownloading by data captureforms. #buyersphere11 a tweet?7% of B2B buyers shareinformation via Twitter.22% do it via the companyintranet. #buyersphere11 a tweet?
  • 20. 38 39FREQUENCY OF USING METHODS TO CREATE AND PUBLISHPROFESSIONAL CONTENTThere was no clear preferred channel when it came to creating andpublishing original professional content. Around two in ten used eachchannel ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ often.E-mailCompany intranetBookmarking sitesFacebookBlogsTwitterBase: all respondents (1,017)Very often Fairly often Rarely NeverOccasionally17% 39% 11% 25%15% 38% 11% 28%18% 42% 11% 22%17% 39% 12% 24%12% 41% 11% 29%13% 39% 12% 31%8%8%7%7%6%5%A WORD OF THANKSThank you for readingWe have done everything we can to make this report as useful aspossible. But, while it doesn’t claim to have all the answers, we hopeit has encouraged you to ask a few more questions.There’s no doubt that B2B buyers are changing the way they seekinformation, and this of course affects how we, as marketers, try tomeet their needs. Whether you decide to invest in your website, insocial media, SEO, advertising or any of the other options open to youdepends on many factors. We simply hope that you may be slightlycloser to the right decision after reading this.If you have been reading this in print and would like a digital copy,please visit of course, if you would like some help with planning how yourbrand accommodates changing buyer behaviour, we’d be more thanhappy to talk.RegardsThe Base One Buyersphere Team+44 (0)208 943 9999FINALLY...