Specifier Survey

Results from a survey of construction specifiers, published by CSPECS this past February, provides insight to guide manufacturers that want their products used by construction specifiers. My comments are interspersed among quotes from the research report:
The survey seeks to understand what Specifiers do to get information and how effective the retrieval and use of that information is.
Note that the study was conducted among self-identified specification writers. Many product decisions are made by designers or other members of a project team. Keep this in mind when assessing how this study impacts your market approach.
Specifiers have a strong sense of time wasted because of the inefficiencies inherent in the current information retrieval process. In general, Specifiers felt that wasted time amounted to roughly 20% of their research time. 

The survey seems to imply that this seemingly large amount of wasted time is due to poor information tools, and not to the work habits of specifiers. It also does not provide insight into how this value may have changed over time. For example, twenty years ago a lot of time was "wasted" filing hard copies of sales catalogs.
Specifiers use manufacturer's websites more frequently than other recognized resources. From a raw percentage standpoint, manufacturer's websites are used twice as often as in-house sources and three times as often as product database websites. 
Not investigated is the value of "product database websites" in driving specifiers to a manufacturers website. I assume "product database websites" includes 4specs.com, arcat.com, construction.com, and others. It would be interesting to know how these various databases compare.
...relatively frequent use of manufacturer's websites is not necessarily a reflection of a high level of satisfaction when getting information. ...manufacturer's web offerings [have] customer dissatisfaction rates of between 20% and 50%...
This matches my experience. There are a lot of websites that are not helpful in finding product information or facilitating product selection and use.

Website deficiencies reported by the survey include:
No guide specifications. 
    46% average response. 54% cite as reason to not return to site.
The importance of offering a guide spec on your website varies with product. Many building products are commodities that do not require guide specifications. Other products are components that are intended to be integrated into larger assemblies or systems; such products may not require a guide specification for themselves.
Product information not easy to "cut and paste".
   40% average response. 74% cite as reason to not return to site.
The ability to cut and paste is useful for incorporating information into a report or email to improve the flow of information among the project team. Difficulties arise when text is treated as a graphic element in a webpage design, or images are incorporated into "flash" presentations. Not only does this make it hard for the specifier to use, it makes it harder for search engines to find your information.

Too many clicks required to find technical information.
   33% average response. 54% cite as reason to not return to site.
Technical info is too embedded in descriptive language.
   33% average response. 91% cite as reason to not return to site.
This finding confuses me. Sometimes the most useful information is communicated in a case study or technical report; not all information can be communicated in a tabular format. Perhaps the complaint is really about sales hyperbole.
Marketing oriented, too little technical info.
   23% average response. 16% cite as reason to not return to site.
This finding is flawed because technical information is also part of marketing communication. More, some websites are intended to motivate the viewer to call the manufacturer or sales rep for more information; some firms still need the human factor involved to engineer the correct solution to a customer's problem.
Not certain info is most current.
  20% average response. 59% cite as reason to not return to site.
There is a timeless battle between "marketing" and "manufacturing," and it takes a committed effort to keep the two in sync. The problem is especially hard with long lead time items; a product specified today may not be manufactured for a year or more. Still, from a product liability perspective, customers are entitled to assume information in your product presentation is current, so watch out.

I thank CSPEC for permission to report on their findings. As with all market research, judgment is required to interpret research for a particular application.