Research highlights shift to digital methods among B2B office products purchasers
Deerfield, IL - In response to the rapidly evolving business market, United Stationers has released a new white paper, "Leader Of The Pack: Digital Replaces Full-line Catalog," revealing the printed full-line catalog traditionally distributed by resellers is losing its luster as digital marketing efforts grow in popularity. In response, resellers must adjust their strategies to match customers' preferences, as 71 percent of customer orders now take place online. The report revealed customers turn to printed full-line catalogs primarily for inspiration, but ultimately go online to research product information, compare prices and access convenient ordering systems.
"Over time, digital and online tools have evolved to play a central role in the research and purchasing process for the majority of purchasers," says Owen Carr, Consumer Research Marketing Manager at United Stationers. "As a result, resellers must focus on digital marketing first, and print second when closing the office products deal."
The research represents a reversal in business-to-business buying trends as resellers have succeeded in the past by distributing full-line catalogs to provide customers with product information - while also using the catalog as a marketing tool. Key findings from the report reveal that approximately 42 percent of reseller customers believe these large (full-line) office products catalogs are a waste of paper, and 81 percent say these catalogs do not play a major role in their purchase of products for use in the workplace. However, the report does reveal that smaller print marketing pieces, such as flyers and catalogs that focus on one category, are on the rise and can serve the purpose of communicating with customers without the costs and waste associated with full-line catalogs.
The report segments customers based on their frequency of catalog usage:
- Non users make up 30 percent of customers who do not use a large reference catalog at all.
- Fifty-seven percent of customers are soft users, with monthly to quarterly usage.
- Core users represent 13 percent of independent resellers' customers who use a full-line catalog weekly or more. Core users represent a small percentage of the overall customer base, but they spend an annual average of $13,810 - more than both soft users and non users combined
"These findings do not imply that resellers should rule out all print materials in assisting their customers," said Carr. "However, to remain effective in an age of decreasing catalog deliveries, resellers must create marketing and digital strategies that meet the purchaser's needs and preferences."
From their findings, United touts several ways for resellers to win in developing and distributing product information:
- Shift marketing emphasis towards digital, from full-line catalog deliveries, so that only those customers who want a catalog get one.
- Invest the saved dollars in digital tools, including web and email capabilities.
- Substitute single-category catalogs to focus on specific markets such as furniture or breakroom products.
- Continue to send frequent inspirational print pieces to drive awareness and inspire product purchases.
Resellers interested in this research can register for the webinar at www.solutionscentral.ussco.com. A download of the accompanying Digital Marketing Infographic is available on www.ussco.com under "Latest News".