Vertical Sourcing: A Multi-Dimensional Search Tool
By Julie Mason
At some point in history, someone must have offered the following perspective to the vexing problem of locating a needle in a haystack–make the haystack as small as possible and spread it flat to make the needle stand out. Hay, needles, history–what do these have to do with finding the ‘left handed purple gizmo’ online that an end user has been requesting for the past two weeks? Enter that gizmo’s name into Google or Yahoo! and then into any one of the business-to-business (B-to-B) search sites–you’ll understand.
While Google will return world-wide results for every search, finding the “needle” in that “haystack” can be time consuming and frustrating. Although many purchasers turn to the large, general purpose search engines, taking a vertical approach to sourcing online greatly improves the odds of finding an exact product or service–often in less than three clicks.
How to start on the right path? The sourcing process is different for every product or service. True, the basic ‘steps’ of find/compare/buy are the same, however, knowing how to ‘find’ is often the biggest hurdle. The 3 Ds of online B-to-B search sites can help get over this hurdle much quicker and more efficiently than the general purpose search engines.
Three Ds of Online Searches: Different
Often confused with online directories, B-to-B search sites provide much more content than simply a company and its address. Some of these sites provide searchable catalog content, allowing a purchaser to actually browse a company’s product line from a desktop computer. Often, these sites have spent time customizing their search processes for the needs of specific industries. For example, being able to search for a chemical abstracts services (CAS) number would be very helpful to someone sourcing chemicals.
Vertical search sites provide sourcing terminology options. While online sourcing a product/service/company, a purchaser may or may not know exactly what to look for, so sites include intuitive search tools that allow flexibility. Most vertical search sites will allow users to search by industry segment, product or service category, or specific product or service. This seems basic, however, being able to refine a search within this hierarchy can save time and frustration.
Defined Searches Eliminate Irrelevant Results
Starting a search with vertical search sites will provide a more defined approach to finding a product or service. By nature, these sites provide access to segmented content. For example, some B-to-B search sites will offer the option of searching for products, services, industry news, and even the web-at-large. Since visitors have the choice of content to search, a purchaser can immediately reduce or eliminate irrelevant results.
Another common search tool offered by the larger B-to-B search sites is the geographic search option. If purchasing policies require working with suppliers in close proximity, this function could save time and wasted effort. For the larger, more costly to ship or transport goods, geography can be a major concern.
Some of these sites have a much broader, global view to sourcing as well, and can provide users with the option of searching for suppliers from every corner of the globe.
Some sites offer foreign language functionality.
Direct Access to Suppliers Saves on Sourcing Time
Vertical search sites not only provide a means to screen out irrelevant material, they will provide contact details to reach vendor. Often, these sites will provide product or services links directly to the vendor’s web page on which the material resides. Most B-to-B vertical sites do not require registration, but instead let users start searching immediately.
The Internet was intended to make life easier by providing quick access to huge amounts of data from around the world. The intrinsic problem has always been the HUGE amount of information. As content has developed globally, specialized B-to-B search sites have sprung up to help people find what they are looking for faster, more accurately, and with less hassle than the general purpose search engines. As sourcing professionals, purchasers should be aware that these tools exist to help sift through all the media, news, companies, products and services, blogs, and content to find that “needle”.
About the Author
Julie Mason is the general manager for Kellysearch.com, an online buyers’ guide and vertical search engine, with more than two million company listings from over 155 countries world wide. For more information, visit www.govinfo.bz/5966-304.