TS: I had a chance to review the Fastener Industry: Digital Landscape 2021 Report where you rated fastener companies and scored them on their websites, digital footprint, social media exposure, etc. You put a lot of work into this. I almost do not know where to begin so I will just dive right in.
You and Lisa Kleinhandler are involved in a lot of technology and fastener operations including Fastener News Desk and Product Genius Technology. And, you have a very strong digital footprint yourselves with all the sites you are involved with.
Cris: Product Genius Technology is focused on consulting and assisting both fastener distributors and manufacturers with their digital strategies. In order for our business to better understand our target market, we decided to take a closer look at the digital footprint of the fastener industry in 2021.
The global pandemic was an awakening of sorts for even the fastener industry. While deemed essential businesses they were forced into adapting to the new work environments that their customers were facing. A digital representation became the lifeline to clients and new prospects. It was a driving factor behind this report. We hope that our findings will be a useful tool for companies that are committed to improving their digital representation and overall customer experience.
In our 20-criterion evaluation we identified 271 fastener manufacturers and distributors that have an online representation. Each company was researched, analyzed, and scored for their digital performance. Our report will provide business leaders a better understanding where they currently rank and where they should be focusing their digital strategies and investments.
TS: What was the most surprising discovery you made from doing this report?
Cris: Can you keep a secret Marty? A top 5 contender is not a publicly traded company? You will have to get the report to see who it is! (There is a link below to request a copy of the report – Click on Product Genius Technology icon below to connect to site where you can request the report)
Some of the key findings from the report:
24% of the businesses provide a fully functioning eCommerce storefront for their clients
75% of fastener websites are responsive and mobile friendly
22% of the websites in our report provide online purchase orders and invoicing
TS: You and I have had some lengthy and serious conversations about companies who lack a strong online presence. You often warn me that the majority of fastener and industrial supply commerce will be conducted electronically, a lot sooner than maybe even our industry expects. Tell me more about why you feel so strongly about this.
Cris: Follow the money! The number one ranked company in our 2021 report projects 80% of their sales to happen online by 2022. B2B eCommerce sales are projected to reach $20.9 trillion dollars by 2027. Technology is moving at the speed of light, either you participate in it or face extinction. Client interaction is digital, period.
TS: Tell me about Product Genius. What is it and who should care about it?
Cris: Product Genius Technology is a patented ecommerce experience application that simplifies the search, sort, and display of fastener products online. We learned through our own experience of creating websites and ecommerce for our distribution business that filtered or faceted search was the only way available for sorting complex products. Some items such as hex cap screws can have hundreds of pages of results based on these systems. This directly leads to a poor customer journey/experience which is of the upmost importance to today’s B2B buyers. Recent studies show 80% of B2B buyers are willing to change suppliers for better customer experience. This is reason enough for anyone selling fasteners and industrial supplies online to care. Who does not want to provide their clients with the best online buying experience? Searching 700 pages of anything is unacceptable. As distributors it is up to us to explain how fasteners are sourced and purchased to our technology providers so that our investments will provide our clients with the best user interface and customer experience.
We took the way fasteners had been represented in catalogs for hundreds of years and created a digital representation. A new product view feature if you will, that allows the buyer access to an entire product category from a one-page buying experience. It replaces filtered search for complex products with large volumes of results.
Most of the fastener industry is comprised of the small to medium size distributors/manufacturers, some are still family owned. These generational businesses are constrained by the lack of in-house IT and technology leadership. We provide our clients with the 95 years of industrial fastener industry experience, plus our knowledge of how distributors & manufacturers can leverage different types of technology to achieve their digital goals and investments. We are the IT team that knows your industry and helps guide the digital strategy your company will need to succeed in today’s online marketspace.
TS: How does Fastener News Desk fit in with all these other ventures?
Cris: Fastener News Desk is the industry’s #1 online source for anything fastener related. While it has no direct bearing on any of our other ventures, Fastener News Desk does provide educational content regarding digital trends that affect every one of us.
TS: Do you still own a lot of fastener domains? I think we did an interview many years ago regarding this topic.
Cris: Yes, we have a portfolio of premium fastener domain names. When launching an eCommerce brand online it is important to choose a domain name where people can find you. Some brands may opt to use their company name, and some choose a catchy more SEO-friendly name that will resonate with their digital clients. Some companies maintain multiple domains.
If you are interested, contact us: 1-800-Fasteners (327-8363)
TS: Where do you see the industry heading in the next 5-10 years?
Cris: That depends on how serious companies take the transformation into digital. While M&A activity has increased over the past few years, PE firms want to purchase companies that are on the top of their game. Getting your company digitally ready for growth or acquisition would be beneficial for short- and long-term goals and assist in a profitable exit strategy for family-owned generational distributorships.
TS: What are your plans moving into the future? Fastener News Desk, Product Genius, etc. Where is this all headed?
Cris: Fastener News Desk will continue to lead our industry online with pertinent content, networking, and business opportunities. Product Genius Technology will continue to educate, train, and consult with fastener companies to assist them in achieving and maximizing their full digital potential.
TS: On a personal note, you and Lisa relocated up to Maine.
How is that going for you?
Cris: We love it here! We are four season folks, so this suits us. Surrounded by mountains and the coast we have plenty to explore and enjoy. The seafood and IPA’s are A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!
TS: What are the biggest things that concern you about the future of the fastener industry going forward?
Cris: The immediate concern is the lack of attention to digital technologies and how they can provide the growth we all work so hard for. Also, of concern would include the adoption of 3D and additive manufacturing capabilities for fastener companies. Of course, there are workforce, supply chain, logistics and tariff issues to be concerned with as well but these are more out of each company’s control.
TS: You were heavily involved in the early years of WIFI (Women in Fastener Industry). You were also an early representative to the Fastener Industry Coalition as a representative for WIFI.
Cris: As a founding member of Women in the Fastener Industry and its first two-year president I had the opportunity to meet with and learn from many of my female industry peers. I consider this experience invaluable! Every fastener company executive should donate their time to the industry organization of their choosing. It will provide you connections and opportunities that the benchwarmers will not get.