Industrial Businesses Risk Losing Sales by Not Respecting Privacy of Buyers

Eighty-nine percent of respondents to ThomasNet survey prefer complete anonymity when searching for industrial products online

New York — August 12, 2005 — Industrial buyers have a clear message for the Web sites they visit in search of products and services: Do Not Disturb. Those who ignore this message face the very real risk of losing large numbers of prospective customers and the sales revenue they represent. This was the key message revealed in ThomasNet's Industrial Purchasing Barometer Survey released this week.

While the Internet saves engineers and purchasing managers a great deal of time and introduces them to a host of new suppliers, it can also expose them to unwanted solicitations from salespeople who obtain their contact information from Web sites that require registration, said Eileen Markowitz, president of ThomasNet. Businesses that use the Internet to help them market industrial products and services may lose potential customers if they do not respect the privacy online buyers demand.

ThomasNet research shows that 90 percent of industrial buyers go online first to narrow their list of suppliers before calling them, making the Internet the most powerful and pervasive industrial marketing tool in use today.

The ThomasNet Industrial Purchasing Barometer Survey showed that more than three out of four respondents (77 percent) have a Don't call us, we'll call you philosophy online — 56 percent of respondents do not want vendors to contact them until they have made the initial contact, while 21 percent do not want to be contacted at all, a tenfold increase over the past three years (ThomasNet last conducted the Industrial Purchasing Barometer Survey on privacy issues in 2002).

The survey also showed that anonymity is a prized commodity: 89 percent of respondents prefer complete anonymity and virtually all (95 percent) want information sent only when they request it.

Those who violate buyer's online privacy can expect to be punished by those customers, most of whom leave and never return, forming lasting negative impressions, the survey said. The survey further revealed that four out of five respondents (81 percent) said they would not return, or would be unlikely to return, to a Web site that reveals their identities to suppliers.

Nearly half of respondents (46 percent) indicated they would be less likely to do business with a company that contacts them as a result of information obtained from a site on which they had registered. And a full 40 percent of respondents said they would have a negative impression of a company that contacted them that way.

The growing demand for privacy may result from the fact that nearly one in three (31 percent) respondents reported that a visit to a Web site for information on industrial products and services resulted in unsolicited calls from salespeople. The negative attitude toward unwanted solicitation also extends to e-mail and online promotions.

An overwhelming 88 percent of respondents said they do not want unsolicited e-mails or Internet promotions from vendors identified during a search. Moreover, 74 percent actively try to limit the number of such promotions they receive, up from 66 percent in 2002.

Buyers avoid Web sites that require registration, the survey said. Sixty-eight percent of respondents indicated that they would either refuse outright to use a site that required registration or would only use it if it guaranteed the privacy of their personal information.

The ThomasNet Industrial Purchasing Barometer Survey was completed by 805 industrial professionals nationwide, including Owners/Executive Managers, Engineers and Purchasing Specialists. The survey was self-administered online over a three-day period in July 2005.

ThomasNet is a provider of online sourcing and marketing solutions for industrial buyers and sellers in North America.

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