Bay Fastening Systems is generating 35% of its sales via ecommerce and expecting online sales to grow about 30% this year, chief operating officer Michael Eichinger says.
Bay Fastening first launched a B2B ecommerce site in 2009, after the company realized the popularity of retail ecommerce was taking hold in B2B markets as well. “It was pretty obvious that at some point there would be a tie for how we were selling to direct-to-consumer ecommerce,” says chief operating officer Michael Eichinger. “We knew there was a shift in buying underway.
Bay Fastening has deep roots in selling fasteners. The company’s founder, Al Bernard, began selling engineered fasteners door-to-door from a small warehouse and office. Today, Bay Fastening is a small distributor that carries an inventory of about 110,000 SKUs from about two dozen manufacturers.
The company has annual sales of about $25 million and sells to a wide range of big and small businesses in need for fasteners, Eichinger says. “We have customers that spend a few thousand on orders to companies that spend tens of thousands,” he says.
New ecommerce site, better data control
Even though Bay Fastening was an early adopter for B2B ecommerce, it wasn’t until about 2015 when the company fully swapped out a couple of early ecommerce systems for a better technology infrastructure from Unilog Content Solutions, Eichinger says. “When we were looking to build our website, we made the same mistake as others did by going with partners who claimed to be B2B experts, but were really driven towards a B2C mentality,” he says. “We worked with two different ecommerce partners but couldn’t find anybody to really fit our needs.”
At the same time that Bay Fastening was updating its ecommerce technology on Unilog’s CIMM2 ecommerce platform with a built-in product information management system, the distributor also began the laborious process of updating its site taxonomy. That required it to transform hundreds of static documents from manufacturers into web pages, giving business buyers many options to search for products ranging from fasteners and adhesives to power tools and accessories.
Bay Fastening developed product and category pages with search options for buyers that want to shop by manufacturer, brand or product category. It still faces an ongoing challenge to Update web pages, however, as it manages a range of product data that comes in a variety of ways through manufacturers by Excel spreadsheets, PDFs and some automated data feeds, Eichinger says. “Even today it’s still not a timely process,” he says.
But with a better ecommerce platform and a decade of learning from past mistakes, selling the distributor’s ecommerce site, BaySupply.com, is now generating multiple benefits for Bay Fastening beyond just more web sales, Eichinger says. Web orders placed directly by customers are processed 80% faster than the time it takes a Bay Fastening service rep to process a phone or paper order, the company says.
Reaching international markets
Better ecommerce technology and an arrangement with ChannelAdvisor Corp., a marketplace management services provider, has enabled Bay Fastening to now sell products on a range of marketplaces including Amazon Business, eBay, Rakuten, Newegg.com, and a few others.
Going forward, the distributor also plans to improve its website analytics, in particular for more overseas sales. So far, better analytics and help from Unilog has enabled Bay Fastening to break down international ecommerce orders. For example, Unilog helped Bay Fastening build web tools and programs that identify an international customer’s location, then automatically alters the product pricing to display in that customer’s local currency. “This functionality is not only unique, but the benefit to capture a global market through localization has indisputable benefits,” he says in a recent Unilog case study.
Going forward, Bay Fastening expects ecommerce to continue to generate a return on investment both on and offline. Today, about 35% of all customers are “engaged” in ecommerce, he says.
“Some manufacturers didn’t notice us as much before we had a really good ecommerce site,” Eichinger says. “Now we have vendors closing off direct business with other distributors and directing them to process all orders through us.”