The 10 ways digital buyers differ from the good old traditional buyers_header

The 10 ways digital buyers differ from traditional buyers

Published April 18, 2023 | Written by SpecialChem

In some industries, like mobility or medical, digitalization is led by technology. In some others, digitalization is coming from digital incumbents redefining the way value is created and distributed in the value chain. See what or Air BnB do to the travel industry.  

In the chemical industry dgitalization is led by the change in customers' behavior.

The buyers, the ones specifying the materials to buy and the ones who actually purchase, have now different behaviors than 5 years ago. And the pace of their change in behavior accelerates.

In this article we will explore what has changed how can suppliers adapt to capture the digital business.



1. They initiate the first contact:

In the analog age the first contact was very often initiated by the suppliers. Now, with the wealth of information available digitally and the ease to access it, chemical buyers can conduct an important part of their buying process online before deciding to connect with a supplier’s representative.

Consequence for suppliers: you should structure your sales organization to be reached out and ready to deal with more educated and knowledgeable buyers. And manage these inbound relationships as well as the existing ones and the ones initiated by the sales forces themselves.

2. The first contact is digital:

In the analog age the first contact was human, by definition… and by default of a better alternative. Now, the ease of use of digital channels determines buyers to do their exploration phase systematically online.

Consequence for suppliers: you need to be discoverable. The Customer Experience is no longer embodied with a human but within your brand and your digital channels. If it is poor, then you might have the best products in the world, it will be more difficult to sell them.

3. They choose the moment:

Buyers can now search for products and suppliers on their mobile, while commuting or on a week-end evening. In a word, they choose the moment which is not necessarily from the office at office hours.

Consequence for suppliers: your digital presence needs to be “always-on”. This is called inbound marketing. Unlike outbound marketing that works by campaigns, inbound marketing is always on. Make sure you make available the relevant information in the right format for your potential customers at any time, as you do not control or know when they might need it and search for it.

4. They choose the channel:

Traffic numbers show that buyers systematically use search engines or platforms like SpecialChem when they look for solutions, products or suppliers. 

Consequence for suppliers: you need to be present on every channel that counts for your target customers. This call for a systematic review of all the channels in the markets you serve. Evaluating KPIs like number of visits from a specialized audience, visitors’ purchasing readiness (are their visits related to active projects), number of potential leads and leads conversion rate, the selection of top performing channels is guaranteed.

5. The human contact happens much later: 

Transitioning fast from the analog age when the first contact was human and early in the buying process, in the digital age, the human interactions happen much later in the process. As shown until now, enabled by the digital means and extended access to information and resources, buyers start and self-advance in their purchase decision making online. 

Consequence for suppliers: you cannot rely solely on your field sales forces. You probably need highly qualified and trained inside sales who can manage interactions when they need to become human.

6. They need to be reassured:

As they can search globally, digital buyers can now easily access information about many different suppliers. But the B2B purchase, be it digital or analog, continues to be a risk. Buyers are well aware about it, so, along with technical information, they also search information about suppliers’ reliability, brand recognition and market validation, success stories, etc.

Consequence for suppliers: work on reassuring the digital buyer. About your company, its reliability, its size, its trust-worthiness. Show testimonials from other customer. Besides your website, your company LinkedIn page is probably one of the first channel to communicate trust towards your new buyers. SpecialChem’s Digital Marketing Solutions has also very solid branding services to offer.

7. They look for transparency:

The digital buyer is spoiled with information. More or less every product information they search for is available online. Chances are high that a supplier somewhere offers transparency about the topic they research. As a result, they tend do get a premium vs the other ones.

Consequence for suppliers: be open and transparent regarding your products. This will help you to be found and to be trusted at the same time.

8. They look for speed:

As we can all relate to that individually in our day to day lives, Digital means speed. Buyers cannot stand long and cumbersome processes anymore. Speed of service becomes a purchasing criteria.

Consequence for suppliers: react rapidly. Qualify your leads really fast. 

9. They still need personalisation:

As they have global access to information, they also need to make sure that the products they are looking at are truly for them. That they are going to pass the regulation in their country. That the products are available in their region.

Consequence for suppliers: you need to offer the relevant level of product data and information but also clearly mention from the very beginning the people who can access your products based on their geo-localization, country / region regulatory requirements, etc. 

10. They look for ease of interaction:

Digitalization of our world calls for simplicity. The development of AI and tools like chats and chatbots are signs of this.

Consequence for suppliers: be easy to work with! The right contents, on the right channels to create the right interactions that matter for you, and the right resources.


This dichotomy between the digital buyer and the traditional buyer that we are using in this article is becoming more and more artificial as every buyer is in a digitalization process. The only thing that changes is how far they are into it and the speed to which they transform.

SpecialChem’s Digital Marketing Solutions offer the channel (The Material Selection Platform), but also the resources (Customer Success Managers, content writing, lead qualifiers, etc.), the software (emailing, webinar, content management system, etc.) and data (AI scoring) needed to capture the digital buyer. And soothe the pain this new mode of organization can represent for suppliers becoming digital.


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