Caterpillar's new retail strategy will include displaying prices on machines at dealerships and online, and offering a more intuitive online retail experience. The strategy is part of an overall plan to streamline the equipment purchasing experience, creating a less intimidating process for all customers.
Alex Stokman, Caterpillar’s retail manager North America, says customers are now able to look at any piece of equipment in the Caterpillar showroom and see pricing. She says the new strategy offers more transparency.
“We want to make sure that information is available to customers in a way that they want to receive it,” she says. “The biggest thing is that it’s providing them [purchasing] options. We believe that those are the elements that are really going to lead to outstanding customer experience.”
Dealers are able to select the models they choose to display pricing on, both in store and online. They will also introduce signage with promotions into the showroom, providing information to customers about potential discounts, services, and product support. Interactive screens will display each machine’s features and benefits.
Several Caterpillar machines are also priced online. In general, machines displaying pricing are the more popular pieces of equipment: for example, the 302, 259, 299, etc. However, Caterpillar has enabled a "build and quote" functionality for all other dealers (who are not yet selling equipment online), allowing a customer to spec out a machine and bring the configuration to a dealer.
As the number of dealers selling equipment and attachments grow, customers will likely see expanded models selling online.
“We’ve had several customers who have come up to a dealer and said, ‘I’m here to pick up my 300.9D that I just purchased online,’” Stokman says. “That customer had a Caterpillar account, logged on, saw the price, and added the machine to their cart. All of a sudden they have a 300.9D they can pick up in a few hours.”
Stokman says primarily smaller-range machines are priced online.
Customers can also buy machine parts using Cat’s website.
“This is great especially for small business owners, who do most of the book work at night after everything is done,” Stokman says. “Those are some of the things we’ve been standardizing for our dealers. This puts the power in the customers hands, allowing them to decide how they want to service their machine.
“If you want to change your oil yourself, we’ll give you the instructions and tell you the parts you need. If you just want parts delivered to your house, we can do that too. Part of this is saying ‘you’re a small business, you don’t have an equipment manager, you don’t have a maintenance manager, let us be your business partner.’”
All Caterpillar dealers will adopt the new strategy by the end of 2020.
Caterpillar also introduced an email campaign that targets customers based on the machine they purchased. Stokman says if a customer purchased a 300.9D, for example, they would receive emails every few weeks providing machine details.
“[Sometimes we’ll provide] a video about how to do preventative maintenance, or information about what you’re going to need for your first 500 hour interval in terms of parts,” she says. “It will also bring customers links to parts on Cat.com so they can interact and service the machine the way they want to.”
So, is this going to be the way people are buying new compact construction equipment? “Maybe not today,” Stokman says. “But maybe in five years, that’s where we’re going.”