IT buyers evaluating complex solutions are more influenced by communications with colleagues than are buyers shopping for commodity products such as laptops and tablets.
That's one of several data points in Mindwave Research's “Technology Advertising Planner,” a biannual report that compiles and analyzes in-person interviews with thousands of IT professionals about their purchases in 15 product categories and their use of multiple media channels.
In addition, buyers of less-complex products go about gathering information differently than buyers of more involved purchases, according to Midwave's “TAP.”
“If you look at buyers of laptops, tablets and similar commoditized products, for example, they may look at a few sources of information before their consumption of data drops dramatically,” said Jonathan Hilland, president-CEO of Austin, Texas-based Mindwave. “By contrast, with the people buying more advanced technology and sometimes deploying it for the first time, the number of sources they use is more than five times greater.”
The level of influence of various information sources is higher among purchasers of complex tech products. According to the most recent results—based on online surveys conducted in September 2012, with 5131respondents—61% of respondents who were buyers of complex tech products are most influenced by communications with colleagues, compared with 49% of buyers of computers and mobile devices.
Complex-solution buyers are also more influenced by manufacturer websites, customer testimonials, print publications and case studies than are buyers of computers and mobile devices are, the report found.
Another unexpected trend the report found is how much social media is being used in a b-to-b context, Hilland said.
“It's higher than anticipated, and not just on LinkedIn or Twitter but also on Facebook—specifically for peer-to-peer information that supports b-to-b tech purchase decision-making,” he said.
The “TAP” study found that different types of social networking activities support IT purchase decisions. For example, 70% of IT decision-makers read tech social posts or updates; 43% viewed or shared an IT-related video or link; 36% posted reviewer comments or questions; and 32% clicked on an IT-related ad.
The use of mobile devices is pervasive in the tech product research arena: 82% of active IT buyers use mobile devices for work-related browsing, according to the study. Leading the device list are iPhones (34%), Android-powered phones (29%) and iPads or iPod Touches (29%), far ahead of other types of mobile devices.
John Ellett, CEO of agency nFusion Group, Austin, Texas, uses “TAP” reports along with a variety of other market research.
“We think it's really important to get a clear picture of the persons we're trying to engage,” said Ellett, whose tech clients include Advanced Micro Devices and Samsung Group. “Data helps round out the picture of what the prospect's role is and what they're looking for.
“It's also a complement to what you know about prospects as people,” Ellett said. “A common problem many IT marketers have is thinking about b-to-b marketing as marketing to institutions, when in effect you're marketing to the people in those institutions.”
“TAP” data show that most IT decision-makers are actively engaged in purchasing desktop (48%), laptop and tablet (40% each) computers. These categories are followed by storage (37%), IT security (35%), and peripherals, professional services and backup/recovery (34%).
The report also found that while non-IT managers and C-suite executives are generally involved in purchases of laptops and tablets, CIOs and CTOs are the key buyers of items that are more critical to the enterprise, such as virtualization solutions, servers, networking equipment and security.
“This shows where some of the biggest opportunities exist today,” Hilland said. “It's important to note who to target for each one. [For example], for virtualization, the CIO is heavily involved for something this strategic.”