Analyzing Purchasing Trends for 2014

A quick look at what’s on the minds of industrial purchasers in 2014

Each new year, without fail, both the media and international research firms inundate their audiences (readers, viewers, listeners and corporations alike) with a seemingly endless stream of “What to Watch” or “Trends” lists and white papers.

This is done for good reason – lookahead pieces provide value on various topics such as health, fitness and business. Among the annual deluge of lists is a host of procurement/purchasing/supply chain pieces, each offering tips for the curious procurement professional.

Recently, UPS and research firm TNS conducted a sweeping survey – “UPS B2B Purchasing Insights: Behavior, Preferences and Perceptions of Industrial Supplier Performance” – to analyze the purchasing trends of industrial buyers.

So…what do purchasers have on their minds?

The detailed report highlights five key purchasing trends within the overall purchasing process (or, to put it another way, the process buyers go through when selecting a supplier): researching and selecting suppliers, purchasing, website features and functions, delivery and returns, and service and support.

The core considerations when selecting a supplier remain product-related features such quality and price. These issues, reads the report, are historical purchasing trends that are unlikely to change substantially.

But purchasing trends have been evolving. The most notable change in the purchasing trends outlined in the report is the opportunity for buyers to purchase directly on a supplier’s website. This trend, according to the report, is now more important than having a dedicated sales representative or even a printed catalogue.

“Sales representatives and catalogues are still important and relevant to the supplier research process, but [there has been]a shift towards less traditional methods of research,” reads the report.

“Diving [even]more deeply into the selection requirements shows that more higher-spending buyers assign importance to supplier websites, sales representatives, catalogues and added-value services. They also rely more on word-of-mouth recommendations from co-workers and peers.”

Within that online purchasing trend, it is instructive to quantify just how popular e-commerce has become. The UPS report found that “34% of buyers have gone outside of their existing supply base to make an online purchase with a new vendor.” This, compared to historical purchasing trends that were dominated by traditional face-to-face sales, marks a huge shift in purchasing.

The shift in online purchasing notwithstanding, the report did find that most buyers are satisfied with their suppliers’ capabilities in the aforementioned areas. There are changes in purchasing trends, to be sure, but those core pieces of the purchasing process are being met.

“This is great news for distributors in good standing with their customers, and perhaps concerning to those looking to expand their customer base,” reads the report.

A big-picture need

The “happiness” of buyers reported in the UPS study implied a continued need for suppliers to integrate what it offers. Purchasing trends show that suppliers must continue offering a suite of options – inventory, shipping and returns – as well as incorporating real-time product availability, negotiated pricing and shipping costs into the online purchasing experience.

UPS Report Methodology

Data for the UPS purchasing trends report was gleaned from an online survey conducted by TNS. The survey was administered in December 2013 with 1,501 purchasers of industrial supplies.

According to the report, the respondents included both decision makers and those who have strong influence on the purchasing decisions of a company.

For more on the UPS study – or to download the report – visit

>>More on analyzing purchasing trends: What results can we find when analyzing purchasing trends?

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