Bredin Report: How long does it take SMBs to buy?

SMB purchase timing: it’s not what you might think

Each month, Bredin surveys 500 U.S. SMB principals in our shared-client survey the SMB Pulse. Recently, we asked SMBs how long it takes them to make a purchase decision in a wide range of product and service categories. The results may surprise you.

SMBs make a purchase decision most quickly on…

Printers. The plurality of both very small businesses (VSBs, those with fewer than 20 employees – 36%) and small businesses (SBs; 20-99 employees – 39%) make a purchase decision on a printer in a week. For mid-sized business (MBs; 100-500 employees), it is cellphone handsets (like an iPhone or Android device); 36% make a handset purchase decision in a week.

VSB purchase timing

After printers, VSBs make purchase decisions most quickly on business checking accounts (34% make a purchase decision within a week); business credit cards (32%), Internet access and tables (tied at 29%), and a cellphone carrier (28%). They take the longest to make a decision on a company retirement plan (only 6% take a week, versus 44% that take more than six months).

SB purchase timing

After printers, SBs make purchase decisions most quickly on cellphone handsets (39% make a purchase decision within a week), business credit cards (36%), business checking accounts (33%), tablets (32%) and a cellphone carrier (31%). The item that slows them down the most? Employee health or life insurance. Only 15% take a week to make a purchase decision in that category.

MB purchase timing

After cellphone handsets, MBs make purchase decisions most quickly on cellphone carriers and payroll service providers (tied at 33%), printers and tablets (tied at 32%), and PCs (31%). The most protracted purchase decision is on company retirement plans; only 20% make a purchase decision in a week on that.

The takeaways

The biggest overall SMB purchase timing takeaways are:

  • Bigger can mean faster. MBs are significantly more likely to make a quick purchase decision than VSBs in seven of the 19 categories we surveyed, and in three categories relative to SBs. Although more people may be involved in a purchase decision at larger SMBs, individuals in larger companies can devote more time to researching options than can harried VSB principals.
  • Complex offerings mean slower purchases. Frequency of product purchase doesn’t necessarily correlate with decision timing – for example, an SMB is unlikely to acquire more than one business checking account or retirement plan. However, the purchase timing for these categories is dramatically different, because retirement plans are significantly more complicated to assess than are checking accounts.
  • The implication? If you’re in a ‘simple research’ category like printers, business checking accounts or Internet access, stay top of mind with constant awareness efforts. If you’re in a ‘complex research’ category like insurance or retirement plans, provide rich explanatory content to make it easy for SMBs to understand your offerings.

Want to learn more? Get the full list of SMB timing to make purchases in 19 categories in by company size, growth outlook, respondent age, and industry group.

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About Bredin

Bredin was founded in 1991 by America's foremost small business expert, author and syndicated columnist Alice Bredin. From its beginning, Bredin was designed to be a breed apart: 50% research consultancy, 50% creative agency, 100% focused on SMB. Based in Somerville, Mass., Bredin helps Fortune 500 companies understand, reach and retain SMB customers through timely, targeted research and award-winning marketing programs.