Even though fasteners are critical to the quality and reliability of manufacturers’ assembled products, the process of ordering online has been anything but easy.
Many fastener suppliers still do not have true e-commerce websites and many list items without a price. Even when pricing is available, items are often marked up in anticipation of follow-up emails and the negotiation of further discounts.
Now, an innovative fastener distributor is borrowing a page from Amazon’s playbook to simplify the buying process and lower cost and complexity from start to finish. The approach involves clearly posting the company’s most competitive pricing online so the widest range of fastener products can be quickly, efficiently, and economically purchased through the e-commerce site. If needed, the distributor still answers questions by phone or email and adds value with special services like plating and kitting, but the emphasis is on offering the best price available online.
“The goal is to make buying fasteners as fast and easy as possible by listing the most competitive price for routine orders,” says Johnny Rose, President of AFT Fasteners, a leading fastener and industrial supply distributor headquartered in Mansfield, Texas. The company has over 30 distribution centers across the U.S. and provides in-house manufacturing, metal plating and finishing, and kitting/assembly for OEMs.
In addition, a true e-commerce platform should offer a vast assortment of fastener options and sizes to meet the needs of a wide range of industries and applications, eliminating the need to visit other sites to complete orders. Unfortunately, this is not the case with many regional suppliers that lack the necessary breadth of options.
An established distributor like AFT Fasteners, for example, offers hundreds of thousands of standard and custom fasteners, much of which is held in inventory to ensure timely delivery.
Putting the “Best Price” Forward
After manufacturers find the specific fasteners required for their needs, getting the best price becomes paramount. However, some fastener suppliers list a higher price online in anticipation that it will be reduced later based on negotiations or other applied discounts.
“Most fastener distributors still expect to negotiate pricing with customers by phone or email even if the item is posted online. They don’t want to telegraph their price or leave any money on the table. They would rather lead with a higher price, reduce it to a more competitive price in the follow-up, and ultimately not have to give as much away,” says Rose.
Unsuspecting purchasers may even simply pay the higher online price if they don’t want to spend the time making additional contact, adds Rose.
In contrast, some distributors like AFT Fasteners are now putting their “best price” forward. This typically involves assigning a very competitive, fixed profit margin to products that will match the quotes given through direct contact.
“The goal of an e-commerce site should be to simplify the purchase process by offering a wide range of products at a posted, competitive price and making it easy to click on the item, order the quantity you need, and get it shipped in a timely manner. It should not leave the pricing in doubt, or inflated, or act as a precursor to further contact,” says Rose.
He notes that even though the company’s pricing online is its “best price,” customers are welcome to work with AFT’s sales representatives who can answer questions, accommodate special orders, and offer discounts for bulk quantities.
Custom corporate pricing is also available through the distributor’s e-commerce website when needed. This can be helpful for large manufacturers with multiple locations where regional personnel are responsible for making their own fastener purchases.
In this case, the manufacturer negotiates a discounted price regardless of location. The fastener distributor provides a special discount code and stocks the products, making the items readily accessible on their website.
“After negotiating a company-wide agreement and a product set, anyone in the company can purchase what they need at the pre-agreed discounted price by entering the code when they buy online, no matter their location,” says Rose.
This approach also simplifies accounting while offering centralized or regional billing.
“With a master purchase agreement, the manufacturer doesn’t have to waste resources with multiple personnel trying to negotiate the price separately. They can make the purchase on the website and manage it online with billing routed to the specific location,” says Rose.
Of course, manufacturers may have unique requirements that cannot be satisfied through the e-commerce site. In that case, the distributor welcomes contact to discuss value-added services including custom and modified parts, thread lockers and nylon patches, metal plating and finishing, painted fastener heads, kitting and assembly, and warehousing and inventory management.