We gathered considerable insights on the B2B buying process and purchasing managers’ usage of digital tools during the previous stages of the study. At this point, we wanted to subject a set of promising hypotheses to rigorous, academic data gathering and testing. Naturally, we could not test all potential hypotheses and use all of the myriad of large-sample data gathering and statistical analyses tools. Instead, we narrowed down our focus as follows.
• Rather than test all of our hypotheses in all 8-steps of the Robinson, Faris, with Wind (1967) BuyGrid Model, we decided to focus on two – selection of alternative vendors and the purchase decision. We selected these two stages because we believe them to be the most critical in the process and to capture pivotal “decisions”.
• Testing the applicability of all available digital tools would be too cumbersome for one study. For this reason, we focus primarily on two, digital tools – peer-to-peer online professional reviews and comments and internally generated Vendor Scorecards. This would enable us to assess the impact of both internally and externally generated digital information.
• Instead of using such techniques as descriptive data-collection and analyses or structural equation modeling, which are popular in current academic marketing research studies, we decided to conduct and analyze a series of field experiments. We did so in order to gain insights into the actual decision-making process. Furthermore, we found very few examples of experiments reported in B2B academic research. Those that do exist relied primarily on MBA students as subjects. We planned to use actual B2B purchasing managers.
Before formulating our research hypotheses and crafting our narratives for each experiment, we conducted an extensive review of the extant, digital marketing literature. Among the observations we made include the following. We shaped our experiments around some of these insights.
• By far, most of the research conducted and reported relates to consumer products. There are very few studies that address the concerns of B2B purchasing professionals and their use of digital tools in the buying process.
• Most of the consumer product studies relied on traditional marketing performance measures – sales, brand image, and ROI – as dependent variables. Instead, we choose to develop a new latent construct, engagement. Not only is this construct consonant with the extant literature, it would contribute by producing an operational definition for use in the B2B context.
• Most consumer studies exclusively address “external reviews” often from non-professional and anonymous consumers. We choose to contrast the impact of both external and internal reviews (i.e., in the form of Vendor Scorecard results).
• Many of the consumer studies examine the impact of negative and positive reviews. We too chose to include valence in our experiments.
We conducted a series of field experiments. We'll share the results in the upcoming posts.