A survey of 3,000 executives at industrial companies has found that 40% buy supplies on-line at least once a week and 55% expect to increase their buying on the Internet.

The survey, by Thomas Register and Visa U.S.A., showed that some companies are spending large sums over the Internet. One-fourth said they bought $1,000 to $10,000 worth of goods a month this way, and another 8% spent more than that.

The executives surveyed worked in manufacturing, government, engineering, and construction.

Of the companies they represented, 85% had annual revenues exceeding $100,000.

The top reasons cited for buying supplies on-line were convenience, round-the-clock availability, and rapid response times. Reasons given for avoiding Internet purchases were security fears, a need to get invoices before making payments, and concerns about product and service guarantees.

Some executives said they would buy more on-line if sellers offered buyer protection and follow-up customer service by telephone or e-mail.

Julianne Garry, director of marketing for Thomas Register's Internet edition, said the survey shows a "growing trend among companies to rely on the Internet for day-to-day operations." But "there are internal company procedures which have yet to incorporate the paperless aspect of purchasing on-line."

Visa is trying to encourage companies to use purchasing cards, both on and off the Internet. Companies can "capture sales information that helps to eliminate paper and automate the back-end accounting process," said Ryan Ross, vice president of business e-commerce for Visa.

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