Launching Caterpillar’s First eCommerce Experience for Machines


Can you sell and distribute $40,000 earthmoving machines through an online experience? In response to changing customer trends, Caterpillar aimed to expand their eCommerce portfolio to include construction machines. The UX team collaborated with the Business Construction Products (BCP) division and Cat Dealers to launch a new digital experience and order-to-delivery process that would revolutionize how Cat machines were sold.



In 2017, I co-led the design and development of a new capability. I partnered with another UX leader and multiple digital agencies to achieve this. The key activities involved in this project are as follows:

Research / Discovery

No competitor had ever attempted to sell machines of this size online before. Therefore, we had no examples to draw inspiration from. In addition, customers may not be accustomed to purchasing machines in this way. This meant that our initiative needed to simultaneously provide all the features of a traditional eCommerce experience, sell the value of the machine, and give customers confidence in making an online purchase.

Due to these complexities, the discovery effort was quite involved. This effort included:

  • Exploring best practices from adjacent industries (such as the automotive industry)
  • Conducting extensive competitive and customer research
  • Partnering with Cat Dealers to align back-end processes

Task Analysis / Process Modeling

As this was a new online capability with no precedent within the organization, we began by modeling the current and desired processes. With input from multiple subject matter experts, we outlined the steps and micro-interactions a user might take to make an online purchase, identified the technologies that would need to be involved, and determined the 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 collaborated with the marketing leaders of the division to create a marketing plan that would introduce the new experience to users. This was particularly crucial because our aim was to bring about a change in behavior and persuade customers to buy a machine costing tens of thousands of dollars in an online environment without any assistance.

The marketing plan comprised a mix 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.

Video Walk-Thru

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




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