July 28, 2009, 12:00 AM

Manufacturers’ sites bring them in, but rarely close the sale

In spite of consumers’ high interest in researching products at manufacturers’ web sites—and the intent of 14% to buy at a manufacturer’s site—only 7% of consumers actually have bought directly from the manufacturer, says a new consumer survey.

Consumer brand name manufacturers are embracing the web, but many have a long way to go before they become true e-commerce sites. In spite of consumers’ high interest in researching products at manufacturers’ web sites-and the intent of 14% to buy at a manufacturer’s site-only 7% of consumers actually have bought direct from the manufacturer, says a new consumer survey by Channel Intelligence Inc. and Forrester Research Inc.

The solution for manufacturers, Forrester concludes, sounds like a prescription for online retailing 101: Develop robust product pages, excel in customer service, establish a community for brand loyalists and simplify the path to purchase.

Channel Intelligence adds: "The major point of the study was to illustrate to manufacturers that most consumers do not and most likely will not buy direct, therefore it’s imperative for them to take a proactive approach on where to buy. The manufacturers that provide where-to-buy tools/services to capitalize on their sites’ traffic see better conversions all around. Ultimately it’s about giving the consumer access to all buying options so they can purchase when, where and how they prefer."

Forrester reports that visitors to manufacturers’ web sites are much more focused on the brand than on price: 23% of shoppers on manufacturers’ web sites say price is more important than brand versus 53% of all web shoppers. They are even slightly more brand-loyal. 66% of shoppers at manufacturers’ sites say they stick with a brand they like versus 62% of all shoppers.

40% of shoppers at manufacturers’ sites bought the product. 7% of that subset did so immediately at the manufacturer’s site. Of the remaining buyers, 52% bought at a store, 29% bought from an online retailer that was listed on the manufacturer’s site and 12% bought from an online retailer not listed at the manufacturer’s site. All who bought made the purchase within a week. Of those who didn’t buy, half intended to buy within 30 days.

Channel Intelligence, which provides e-commerce technology for retailers and manufacturers, surveyed 13,000 visitors to manufacturers’ web sites. Forrester provided analysis of the results and this week published the report: “How the Best Manufacturer Web Sites Drive Sales (Hint: Through Other Stores).”

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