Launching Caterpillar’s First eCommerce Experience for Machines


How do you sell and distribute $40,000 earthmoving machines via an online experience? In response to customer trends, Caterpillar sought to expand their eCommerce portfolio beyond parts to include construction machines. The UX team partnered with the Business Construction Products division and Cat Dealers to launch a new digital experience and order-to-delivery process that would transform how Cat machines were sold.


In 2017, I co-led the design and development of this new capability, partnering with another UX leader and multiple digital agencies. Key activities included:

Research / Discovery

No competitor had ever attempted to sell machines of this size online before. As a result, we had no examples to borrow inspiration from. Further, customers would not be accustomed to purchasing machines in this manner. This meant that our initiative would need to simultaneously provide all of the features of any traditional eCommerce experience, sell the value of the machine, and give customers confidence in purchasing online.

Due to these complexities, the discovery effort was quite involved including:

  • Exploring best practices from adjacent industries (like the automative industry)
  • Conducting heavy competitive and customer research
  • Partnering with Cat Dealers to align back-end processes

Task Analysis / Process Modeling

Since this was a new online capability with no precedent within the organization, we kicked off our process by modeling the as-is and to-be process. Based on input from multiple SMEs, we model outlined the steps and micro-interactions a user might take to purchase online, identified which technologies would need to be involved, and identified necessary changes to back-end dealer processes.

Experience Design

Once we had a solid understanding of the problem space, we:

  • Documented the desired customer journey from the first moment of truth to after the sale
  • Built user flows to represent the “happy path”, as well as alternative paths
  • Crafted wireframes for all parts of the experience
  • Developed business, functional, technical, and data requirements
  • Worked with agile development teams to build and launch teh experience in multiple phases

The experience:

  • Touched multiple customer-facing platforms
  • Required changes in underlying technology
  • Involved enhancements to product data feeds
  • Involved pricing variances by Cat Dealer / region
  • Would require changes in the digital experience of participating Cat Dealers

Further complicating the experience was the need to allow users to:

  • Bundle parts, products, and services with the sale of their machine
  • Configure their machines to meet their specific needs
  • Integrate with Cat Financial for financial and insurance needs associated with the purchase

Marketing Strategy & Planning

We worked with the division’s marketing leaders to develop a marketing plan that would introduce the new experience to users. Again, this was especially important because our goal was to drive behavior change and convince customers to purchase a machine that costs tens of thousands of dollars in an online environment with no assistance.

The marketing plan included a combination of paid media, social media, email marketing, landing pages and lead generation.


The Machines Online experience launched in 2018 and piloted with a sub-set of dealers and four machines. Since this time, the program has expanded to include additional dealers and models.


Note: This was recorded in 2020. It includes some newer enhancements that were not a part of the original launch.




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