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Posted by Kate Khom - 10 December, 2018

How Devotion to Digital Commerce Drives B2B Growth

Featured Company

Apruve had the privilege to hear how Hudson Fasteners grew to be the B2B eCommerce thought leader it is today.

The following article was written by the owners, Lisa J. Kleinhandler and Cris A. Young.

The future belongs to individuals and companies who embrace the entrepreneurial spirit, whether that is inside or outside a company. The fundamental question is what is going to have people get motivated and inspired to make their highest contribution? What is going to get them fired up to do what they came here to do? 

- The Rise of the Intrapreneur, Fast Company.

Our company spans 80 years and three generations. Hudson Fasteners was founded in New York City in 1946, my Grandfather was introduced to the business by his brother in law, who founded Brooklyn Nut and Bolt in 1936.

Digital Commerce in the Fastener Industry

When we came into the business we were still a brick and mortar distributor headquartered on Long Island, NY.

We maintained a large warehouse, floor to ceiling racks with pallets of screws, nuts and bolts, doing business the way my Grandfather and Father had always done with a fully stocked warehouse.

For those who can remember when; we were still keeping our inventory on the drawer card system.

In case you’re not familiar with Fasteners: They are nuts, bolts, & screws

Think about the fastener aisle of the BIG box hardware stores, it is prime real estate; Lowes, Home Depot and any BIG Box hardware store there is always an aisle designated to fasteners with drawers, bins and racks!

Fastenal, alone has over 2500 physical locations, thousands of vending machines and on-site inventory.

Fasteners through brick & mortar

There are hundreds of variations which leads to one of the BIG problems industrial suppliers face; we’ll get to a little later.

They’re literally everywhere, holding our world together!

We know that it must be a sizable market based on the prime real estate in the BIG Box Hardware Stores. So how big is the industrial supply industry?

The Industrial Supply Market Size is: $160 Billion in N.A. and $500 Billion globally per year. The Fastener Industry alone is a $95 Billion a year industry globally.

We now know the value of the market size, let’s look at demographics of the $160 Billion Dollar industry:

  • 30% of market is taken by top 50 BIG industrial Suppliers
  • 70% are Small to Medium Size Distributors

Leaving huge potential in the 70% space and possibility for disruption in the 30%.....we know Amazon plans to!

Today, Grainger operates the 15th largest eCommerce site in the US, with 60% of its sales originating online. Grainger estimates by 2022 80% of its $12B in revenue will be online eCommerce sales.

Big Box vs small distributors in eCommerce

So what can the small to midsized distributors in the B2B space do in search marketing to provide content, features and services that will keep online buyers from defecting to the BIG Guys?

Steve Jobs said:

You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology, not the other way around.

Now we’ll explain how our devotional journey to digital transformation began.

Here’s how we approached the journey....

Digital transformation B2B checklist

We are going to share how we:

  • Created and launched an Omnichannel network of 7 product specific websites that is the natural outgrowth of the BIG industrial supply catalog.
  • Created a patented B2B eCommerce solution that dynamically loads and displays 1,000’s of results in a product category allowing the customer to quickly purchase all products from a one page experience.
  • And to amplify our message and tell the world about our industrial network and B2B eCommerce platform, we created an industry voice and lead generation tool, which has quickly have become the online media source for the fastener industry.

This is the original Headquarters of 1-800-FLOWERS on Long Island, NY circa 1999; we would drive past there on our way to work.

We were so inspired by 1-800-FLOWERS for their vision to use technology to create the largest network of florists in the world. At around this same time we saw an opportunity in the supply chain coming: Manufacturers were now offering private labeling and direct distribution.

Transforming how fasteners are bought
 

We began visualizing the idea of a virtual warehouse and began reinventing our business to become a viable 21st century distribution business model.

We would ask ourselves...How can we be physically located on Long Island and also be relevant on the World Wide Web.

We became fully committed and participated in anything and everything we could to learn about technology and getting Hudson Fasteners online.

We ended up purchasing the domain name 1-800-FASTENERS.COM AND THE JOURNEY BEGAN....we became investors of internet real estate.

We figured if Fastenal could have 2500 brick and mortar stores, we would compete with a network of online sites in the industrial supply space.

Traditional advertising

Does anyone here remember the BIG Green Books?

In 1999, we took a leap of faith and purchased an advertising program that included an eCommerce website program from Thomas Register.

They were the best advertising medium and search engine for industrial supply for over 100 years. At this point there was no Google and Yahoo had just come into play.

This was a very exciting time for our business; we now had the opportunity to get our business on the World Wide Web!

We learned a lot from this experience...about product categories, keywords, niche product lines, negative keywords (bad leads), filtering items and display options.

This is our first website we designed way back in 1999...

digital commerce evolution

We launched in 2000...and so the digital transformation of our industrial supply company began.

It was also during that time we began seeing the problems with eCommerce out-of-the-box solutions that would lead to poor customer experience buying fasteners and industrial supplies online.

We knew then if we could improve customer experience, we would have a strategic advantage over any of our competitors both large and small.

So we began to visualizing and designing how this technology would function. It took many years to build this brand new technology that solves one of the BIGGEST problems industrial suppliers face with online customer experience.

Fast forward our business is now a portfolio company at a technology incubator in Youngstown, OH.

The area is known as the Steel Valley; it has a rich history in manufacturing, and is located in the heart of the fastener industry. It is now commonly referred to as the Rustbelt turned Techbelt.

We now found ourselves as a startup technology company with expertise in fasteners and industrial supplies.

To explain more in depth about the customer experience problem: Fasteners sort in fractions, which makes problem #1, and then there are diameters, thread pitches, Grades, Head Styles, Drives, Materials, Platings, on and on creating a multitude of filters to find an item.

This problem exists from the BIG industrial supplier right down to the small to medium distributors we spoke about earlier.

This is why we created our patented Product Genius Technology B2B eCommerce solution, that dynamically loads and displays 1,000’s of results in milliseconds, for product categories that may have thousands or more possible results.

The technology allows the customer to quickly purchase all products in a category from a one page experience.

Our eCommerce customer experience streamlines, simplifies and expedites the ordering of industrial supplies, for procurement professionals, engineers and MRO (Maintenance, Repair and Operations) personnel.

The next problem was the transformation of the BIG industrial supply catalog. Big industrial supply catalogs are about 4” thick and are divided up into product categories with tabs in the book binding to make finding products easier.

We took this same approach when designing...

1 Industrial WayTM - An Omni-channel network of niche websites that is the natural outgrowth of the BIG industrial supply catalog.

Customer experience can easily be skewed when you sell 50K-2Millions items. B2B buyers that are demanding the B2C customer experience prefer to shop at niche websites where they know that they can find what they’re looking for when they’re looking for it.

The architecture of our website technology allows us to directly target key product lines to specific customer groups. By targeting efforts into manageable niche sites we can dominate/optimize a search and funnel searchers directly to the products they’re looking for.

Which eliminates distractions commonly found on the leading industrial supply websites. The websites have the ability to serve the client as a niche boutique or clients can shop throughout the 1 Industrial Way network.

Our two part solution hastens the path to customer satisfaction and purchase. We’re able to leverage our size and expertise to move faster than the competition.

As a startup with limited marketing dollars we had to find a way to amplify our message and tell the world about our industrial network and B2B eCommerce platform, so we created an industry voice and lead generation tool, FastenerNewsDesk.com which helped us:

  • Established our place in the market.

  • Blogging: Running a consistently high quality blog will also help you build brand awareness.

  • Become the online media authority in our industry, and build trust amongst our prospects.

  • Figure out who was covering our industry and start building relationships with them, and contributing.

  • Maximize our public relations efforts with inbound marketing and social media.

  • Partnering with other brands helped us inherit some of their image, reputation, and create brand evangelists outside our circle.

  • Continue to build brand awareness.

  • Drive traffic to our website and convert that traffic into leads.

It’s powerful to build a community, and it’s not about the amount of followers it’s about the quality of the audience.

Again we recognized that segmenting audiences also helps us to target product line to customer groups. Well executed B2B Marketing is really is the art of positioning a brand to be found at every stage of the buyers journey.

Digital buyer experience

The facts are that B2B Buyers will expect a B2C experience.

We are now faced with a changing workforce from boomers to millennials; businesses must engage the new workforce by providing seamless buying experiences.

We know in our business, Millennials in the distribution channel are not tied to any particular big industrial supply catalogs, they drive m-Commerce, they engage and research products and services via online content and social media.

So as B2B companies, we now need to think differently about customer experience, SEO, PPC, social engagement, content marketing and having the proper staff or resources to execute a defined company strategy.

If your B2B SEO strategy is based around ranking your own website instead of positioning your brand, you might just be missing a much bigger picture.

In conclusion: Small B2B distribution companies like ours can use customer experience, search optimization, data analytics, and content marketing to compete against much bigger and more well-known companies in today’s competitive digital business world.

Disrupting B2B Processes

Hudson fasteners logo


Since 1946, Hudson Fasteners has been known for excellent customer service and a complete selection of product for OEM, distributors, government, institutional and military requirements. Hudson Fasteners provides a wide range of anchors, bits, bolts, nuts, washers, sems, screws and other fasteners to all types of industries. We also specialize in assortment kits and JIT delivery programs to satisfy all types of stocking programs.

Topics: Disrupting B2B, B2B eCommerce