Google has built its success on a foundation of effective searches — a user-first mentality that delivers immediate results tailored to the individual searcher. For engineers and other B2B buyers, specificity and accuracy lay the groundwork for an effective design process. Despite the Google model, many high-tech B2B companies struggle to offer technical search options that optimize the user experience, a failure that can adversely impact sales conversions. Strong search tools keep users on a site — a critical step in the buyer’s journey, which ideally would end with a purchase. However, when prospects abandon a site at the search box, they fail to become customers at all.
Big Zeta, in partnership with EETech, surveyed a variety of individuals in the engineering and technology space to gauge the importance of search in their day-to-day professional lives. In addition to basic information on demographics, participants provided insights on helpful search tactics, preferred search functionality, and the stages at which keyword and parametric search is most important.
Survey respondents varied by age and industry, although those aged 55 and over accounted for the highest number of respondents. This in itself isn’t necessarily important, although it provides a breadth of experience behind the survey’s findings. Overall, engineers and engineering managers agree that keyword and parametric search is crucial to the design process at any stage.
• Supplier keyword search is the most useful way for engineers to locate the product or service they need.
• Accuracy is the most important quality of a keyword search.
• Users want integrated parametric data with keyword data.
• Keyword search and parametric search are essential in many parts of the design process.
• Locating datasheets and application notes are the most common reasons for using keyword and parametric search functions.
• Artificial intelligence and machine learning can help optimize search results.
• Users value easy-to-use interfaces and accuracy most in parametric searches.
Survey participants ranged in age from 18 to over 55, and they self-identified as design engineers, engineering managers, software engineers, and systems engineers. All of them said that they search daily for electronics content as part of their jobs.
Survey results underscore how critically important technical search is to design engineers: 65% of electrical engineers who subscribed to All About Circuits reported in a recent AAC survey that search engines were their most important, most accessed resource for information. Nevertheless, few technical search options are robust enough to offer the functionality that engineers and other industry professionals demand. So, what exactly does an intelligent user base require from B2B search?
To find out, we asked a variety of engineers across the industry what functionality is most important to them when they’re using keyword and parametric searches. This report offers collective insights on your users, designed to provide the information you need to build a search strategy that delivers results.
We asked respondents to identify and rank the most important search functionalities when looking for a product or service. Nearly one-third ranked supplier keyword search first, easily outdistancing the other search functionalities. There was a nearly three-way tie for second among distributor keyword search, supplier parametric search, and distributor parametric search.
What are the most important attributes of keyword search for users?
The top choice — accuracy — was identified by nearly two-fifths of respondents, doubling the second-place answer. Respondents’ second priority was results that fell across domains (supplier site, supplier community, supplier support site, etc.), followed by surfacing of parametric data and keyword data, and additional context (surfacing additional results such as ecommerce or recommendations).
What would improve keyword search for users?
More than 60% of respondents cited technology advances as the key to improving keyword search. Specifically, more than one-third want to see the integration of parametric data with keyword data, and a quarter identified AI and machine learning. Other responses included the ability to see the popularity of a search result by usage, followed by the integration of keyword search, parametric search, and search chat bots.
How important is high-functioning keyword search in establishing vendor confidence?
A staggeringly high percentage of respondents — 93% — have confidence in vendors with high-functioning search. This makes a persuasive case for establishing exceptional keyword search functionality.
Where in the design process is keyword search most important?
Three responses vied for the top answer, reflecting the importance of keyword search throughout the design process. 29% said it was during research, followed closely by prototyping and conceptual design. Awareness and vendor justification were cited by nearly one-sixth of respondents.
What are people using keyword search to look for?
More than half of respondents use keyword search to find datasheets or application notes. Reference designs ranked third; at significantly lower percentages, respondents use keyword search for block diagrams, kits, company information, end-of-life notices, and technical errata.
What are the most important attributes of parametric search for users?
Nearly 85% of respondents need easy-to-use parametric interfaces that deliver accurate results along with the ability to manipulate the interface. Also cited were sophisticated refinements and overall performance.
How important is high-functioning parametric search in establishing vendor confidence?
Mirroring keyword search, an overwhelming percentage of respondents — 93% — say they have confidence in vendors with high-functioning search. Less than 10% ranked it as unimportant or didn’t know.
What are people using parametric search to look for?
More than half of respondents are using parametric search to look for datasheets and application notes, though reference designs and block diagrams are also popular search items. Fewer users are looking for kits, technical errata, company information, end-of-life notices, or other, though they do account for some searches.
Where in the design process is parametric search most important?
Like keyword search, respondents are using parametric search almost equally across research, prototyping, and conceptual design, followed by awareness and vendor justification.
What would improve parametric search for users?
Nearly 75% of respondents want the ability to drill down more specifically, either by application or software. In an industry increasingly differentiated by software, these search improvements would empower users. Respondents are also looking for kit or sample availability, and partner search, which would allow for searchers to identify an ecosystem of partners who could collaborate on complex designs.
Survey Respondents by Job Title and Age
Roughly half of design engineers’ responses came from individuals 55 and over. A distant second, at 22%, was the age bracket of 18-34.
This category was dominated by individuals 45 years or older, with nearly three-quarters of respondents in this range. A majority of engineering managers were 55 or over, with the age group of 45-54 constituting 20% of the total.
This category showed more balance across age ranges. Systems engineers 55 and over accounted for nearly a third of respondents, tied with those aged 45-54. Interestingly, 18-34 year olds and 35-44 year olds also responded in equal measure, at 17 percent.
Nearly half of those who identify as software engineers were between 18 and 34 years old. On the other end of the spectrum were those 55 and older, who came in second at 24%.
Industry by Employee
Respondents varied by industry, representing security, RF microwave wireless, components & assembly, medical equipment, test & measurement, military/marine electronics, communications, instrumentation, computers, aerospace, automotive electronics, industrial controls, and other.