Suppliers are Going Digital as Online Materials Search Takes Over

Aluminium materials in storage warehouse

Shutterstock | Kalabi Yau

The world of material supply and demand is shifting rapidly into the digital sphere. This is making purchases and sales easier for a more productive system than ever. This is the digital revolution.

A number of consumers have already made the shift to eCommerce with the likes of Amazon, which in 2016 had been visited by 82% of the UK’s internet users in one month. B2B eCommerce is also making the shift with a value of $5.5 trillion in 2015 and a predictable growth to $12 trillion by 2020. That places it at two times the current B2C spending.

Manufacturers Need an Online Presence

Based on a study by United Parcel Service Inc. 63% of industrial supplies buyers are presently purchasing online. In the same study, buyers were asked what is most critical to them when making a purchase and 74% stated that it was the online purchasing supplier’s website.

Thanks to consumer buying sites like Amazon, a similar level of ease, access to product information, shipping, and pricing transparency is now expected of business to business buying websites. This can be problematic for businesses as they must integrate old systems, communication platforms and their financial and inventory management into one, customer-facing buying platform - often this is close to impossible.

Third party platforms have been developed to solve this problem, and allow businesses to move their inventory online, without an entire overhaul of their business model. Many businesses are making this move online to third party platforms, which allow manufacturers and suppliers to find each other with ease.

In 2015, a study by UPS Industrial Buying Dynamics discovered that distributor websites were the top channel used by 66% of industrial product buyers making industrial purchases.

How Can the Materials Industry Benefit?

Material buyers have extremely specific requirements when making purchases, and the way online search tools work makes them perfect for the sourcing of a specific material. For instance, buyers on the platform Matmatch are able to search for exactly what they are looking for and have results paired to them to allow them to find the best seller for the job. On the flip side, this also highlights the fact that sellers are discovering new buyers in an easier manner.

Since it is possible to make a buyer-material connection at the speed that online information sharing allows, designers, companies, engineers as well as research and development teams can work with the material supplier right from the inception of a project. Thanks to specific search term narrowing, it is presently possible for buyers to discover exactly what they want. Filtering options on Matmatch comprise of the application of the material, properties such as melting points, categories such as ceramics or metals, material shapes such as sheets or bars, and supplier locations.

An added benefit of moving to online platforms is the potential to promote products. Suppliers can share examples of how their materials are used and they can also demonstrate their expertise to a bigger global audience. This can help them both cement their leadership position in present industries and demonstrate how their materials could be used in new areas.

What do Buyers Want from the Online Experience?

A UPS study highlights that buyers using online platforms expect to have complete product descriptions backed up by thorough specification sheets and instruction manuals. Often, there is also the option to read reviews left by other buyers and how-to videos. For the materials industry, a platform that permits sellers to explain their product and show off its use cases is a perfect way to fulfill that online need of buyers.

It is also necessary to consider the rise of mobile. An increasing number of people are using their mobile devices to do research and also find products. Mobile permits buyers to source items from any location, at any time, and even be notified of new materials that become available. Thus, having a website that is optimized for mobile browsing is vital. Furthermore, in 2015 Google’s search engine algorithm was updated to negatively mark sites that were not mobile-friendly, so businesses that do not keep up to speed will lose out.

The good news is that most new online platforms are already mobile-optimized, thus suppliers have a shortcut to reaching customers on mobile by just listing their products on these platforms.

Inventory lists must also be up-to-date. A massive 93% of buyers in industry rate product availability as greatly important. One of the benefits of using an online platform to buy materials is that they can be live, giving a latest inventory feature which enables buyers to access what they need instantly. This applies both to deliveries and collections, and is based on locality.

The buying process is different for different businesses, and this also includes the digital platforms that facilitate them. There may be an expectation from buyers to have volume discounts, credit terms, negotiated prices, and use of corporate procurement systems to work with invoicing and receivables management. Shipping mode, supply chain control and delivery speed are all also areas where businesses may need online data or control.

Don't Let Digital Leave You Behind

Using online platforms such as Matmatch, sellers and buyers will be able to find each other and ensure that materials can be effectively and efficiently sourced.

The savings for suppliers, and increased potential to source resources for manufacturers and researchers, are so vital that this digital shift, together with IoT advances in the field of manufacturing, is now known as the fourth industrial revolution.

As the shift from offline to online business continues to speed up, it is indeed becoming increasingly vital for manufacturers to guarantee that they can be found online to make sure that they continue to be part of the revolution and don’t get left behind.

References and Further Reading

  1. Net Revenue of Amazon 2017 – Statista – Accessed December 2017
  2. Trends and Statistics in B2B E-Commerce – Ecommerce&B2B – Accessed December 2017  
  3. B2B Buyers are Going to the Web More to Buy Industrial Products - Digital Commerce 360 - Accessed December 2017
  4. Site Search and Navigation Aren’t Just for Consumers – Nextopia – Accessed December 2017


This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Matmatch.

For more information on this source, please visit Matmatch.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you have a review, update or anything you would like to add to this article?

Leave your feedback