Report Reveals Process Behind Security Product Purchasing

Check out some of the reasons why you do — or don’t — buy new electronic security solutions.

The recently released Security Industry Association (SIA)-sponsored research report conducted by the Josh Gordon Group, “Business Opportunities in the Security Industry: New Paths to Success in a Changing Market,” gave security industry buyers a voice to sound off about the marketing that targets them. Since few industries are charged with protecting life and property against an ever-changing array of threats, the security industry has unique characteristics that come up during the product buying process that this study was designed to bring forward.

Here are some interesting findings from the study.

Security Pros Not Social Butterflies

Compared to other industries, security solutions purchasers aren’t that active on social media. Many security directors actively discourage employee participation in social media platforms such as Facebook, describing it as a place where “people share too much.” Several identified Facebook as a source of security breaches, both because employees unknowingly had shared personal information compromising to organizational security, and because use of Facebook by employees on the job can provide computer hackers a backdoor to their computer firewalls. Among many with this security industry mindset, social media is under suspicion and actively discouraged.

However, one social media platform scored very high: respondents ranked LinkedIn as the third most frequently used medium. Why should LinkedIn score so high while all other social media scored so low?

Follow-up interviews found that LinkedIn is viewed differently because it is primarily a business platform where little personal information sharing occurs. But more importantly, LinkedIn has a feature that is especially valuable to security professionals. When protecting life and property, the ability to evaluate the trustworthiness of new relationships is critical. LinkedIn helps evaluate the trust in potential suppliers, dealers, employees or partners by providing a list of a new prospect’s business associates. If the people on that list are known to be trusted, then the new prospect could be trusted as well, or vice versa. By acting as a personal industry trust meter, LinkedIn offers special value to an industry where trust is critical to protecting life and property.

End Users Don’t Frequent Supplier Websites as Often as Dealers, Integrators

Responses regarding media usage by security managers, security dealers and systems integrators revealed a surprisingly big contrast in the use of supplier Web sites. While most measurements between the three groups showed a 5- to 10-percentage-point difference at most, when it came to supplier Web sites, the findings indicate that security managers visit them only about half as often as supply channel respondents (dealers and integrators). Only 31.7% of security mangers say they visit supplier Web sites at least once a month while 65.8% of security dealers and 60.1% of systems integrators do.

Supplier Web sites contain primarily product information, which is a core interest for people working in the supply channel. But for security managers, the primarily focus is on keeping their organization safe, and security products are a means to that end. As result, security managers are less motivated to visit supplier Web sites on a regular basis.

Comparison Shopping Not Easy

What prevents security industry customers from buying a new, better product? Given that security products are often used as part of an integrated network, it can be hard to introduce a new product because products already in a system are much easier to add. Yet suppliers are constantly introducing new and improved products.

To help measure what stands in the way of the purchase of new, better products, a list of 10 obstacles was created. It was anticipated that “current product is the system standard,” “new product offers insufficient improvement for switching,” “long-term relationship with current supplier” and “perceived risk” would top the list. However, another option was surprisingly picked more frequently: “insufficient information for product comparisons.” How is it possible that the most frequently selected obstacle standing in the way of the adopting a new and better product has more to do with marketing communications than the product itself?

Breaking out the responses by security managers, dealers and integrators showed that not everyone answered this question the same way. For security managers, the top reason for not switching to a better product was “insufficient improvement to justify switching.” End users are skeptical that adding a “better” new product would offer a big enough improvement to compensate for the difficulty of switching it out. But channel respondents had a different take. Both security dealers and systems integrators selected “insufficient information for product comparisons” as their top choice.

Additionally, for channel partners and end users alike, there is far more to a solution than just product specs. Other parts of a solution could include the reliability of the supplier, quality of technical support, availability of training, long-term stability of the supplier and future-proof options

End Users Like to ‘Kick the Tires’

Security systems buyers also find it challenging to differentiate security products. A list of 13 information forms were presented that commonly appear in ads, promotional materials or on supplier Web sites. The list included items like testimonials, product awards and unique product features. Respondents were asked to pick the information types that motivated them to buy from a company that provided it.

The top picked choice was “new products.” But after that, three of the four next most selected categories were comparative in nature: “unique product features,” “technical comparisons to competitors” and “value comparisons to competitors.” End users are indicating information that shows how products are different is among the most persuasive a supplier can provide.

Today’s security product buyer lives in a comparative world. When a product purchase begins, buyers go online where they can easily make side-by-side product comparisons. A product that is not differentiated runs the risk of becoming a commodity. The message customers are sending is they don’t see big differences between security products but are motivated to understand them.

Josh Gordon is President of the Josh Gordon Group. He can be reached at

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