But buyers often find the quantity and quality of information available online doesn’t meet their expectations, a survey finds.

E-commerce is speeding up how quickly business-to-business buyers can make a purchase online. But the process leading up to completing a transaction—including offline as well as online activity—is getting longer and more complicated, says a new survey from Showpad, a provider of software used to manage sales and marketing activities.

On average, B2B buyers will spend up to 20 hours researching before they contact a sales rep.

The company surveyed in June 656 B2B buyers in the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany and found that buyers are spending more time online and with sales reps before deciding to complete a purchase.

In fact, the bigger the deal the more time buyers are taking to research a purchase. For example, for purchases worth more than $100,000, buyers will research products both online and offline for more than 40 hours, but for purchases valued at less than $5,000 buyers spend five hours or less on research.

“On average, B2B buyers will spend up to 20 hours researching before they contact a sales rep,” the survey says.

Most product research is done online, it says. For senior executives including CEOs, the web is the preferred method of learning about a particular product or service, Showpad says.

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The survey finds that 64% of buyers conduct research on vendor websites before they contact a sales rep, while 59% of buyers also read peer reviews on such websites as G2Crowd.com, which posts reviews and comments on enterprise software applications, and Capterra.com, where users post thoughts, rants and raves on business applications. “Peer feedback plays a large role in research,” the survey says.

In general, B2B buyers want plenty of personalized content when researching a purchase decision, but often find the quantity and quality of information available online doesn’t meet their expectations.

One-third of respondents (32%) say that when they research, they can’t find the information they need, compared with 37% that note that not enough information relates to their direct purchase. 29% of survey respondents say the information they have found hasn’t proven their desired return on investment.

While most B2B buyers spend significant amounts of time online, most of them—70%—indicate they still want contact with a sales rep at some point in the purchasing cycle, the survey says. “Only 30% of buyers prefer to gather information on their own, meaning the majority of buyers find value in interacting with sales reps,” the survey says.

Other survey findings include:

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  • Longer purchasing cycle. While slightly more than a third (36%) of respondents say that their purchasing process has remained the same over the past 12 months, more than half (54%) say their buying cycle is getting longer. In fact, almost a quarter (22%) say it has increased significantly.
  • Lots of decision makers. Nearly a quarter (24%) of all B2B buyers say more than five people participated in their last B2B purchase. In comparison, 33% reported that one or two people participated in their last purchase and 32% say that three or four people participated. Only 8% reported that there was a single decision maker.
  • Overwhelmed by content. The Showpad study found that 86% of buyers get overwhelmed anytime there is more than 10 pieces of content to read and 42% are overwhelmed by than five pieces of content.
  • Certain B2B website features are a must have. When researching a purchase, B2B buyers want easy access to a variety of web features, including personalized portal content (45%), an ROI calculator (44%), augmented reality (38%), video chats (33%) and instant messaging with sales reps (22%).

Senior executives want “personalized service when they are considering purchasing decisions,” Showpad says. “For them, the tool that would accelerate purchasing the most is a personalized content portal (44%) that will help them find the right information, quickly.”

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