By Bill Tremblay
Caterpillar showrooms in North America are undergoing a makeover.
The construction equipment manufacturer is redesigning its dealerships in order to create a more all-encompassing retail experience for customers in the Building Construction Products (BCP) market.
“We took some time and we went to our dealers and some of our competitors to understand what the buying process is like,” said Alex Stokman, Caterpillar’s BCP retail development manager for North America.
“We also went to the automotive industry to understand what their buying process is like.”
During their research, Caterpillar found the customer were small business owners — including landscapers, plumbers and farmers — who are not the traditional Caterpillar customer. As well, the BCP customer base would likely purchase one to three pieces of equipment.
“As such, we didn’t do a very good job of serving that customer base,” Stokman said. “That customer is extraordinarily critical to Caterpillar. Not just BCP, but Caterpillar as a whole.”
Once Caterpillar developed a better understanding of the BCP customer’s purchasing habits, they once again surveyed the competition as well as the automotive industry, as compact construction machinery is on par with a luxury car or a well-equipped pickup truck.
“We knew we had the best dealer network in the industry. And we just needed to make a few small adjustments to ensure those dealers truly understood how we go about doing this,” Stokman said.
The BCP one-stop shop
Now to accommodate the busy schedules of small business owners, Cat will stock its dealerships with various needs of the industry, from machines and attachments to parts and personal protective equipment. As well, smaller parts will be readily available in the showroom.
“We need to make sure our showrooms are a one stop shop for them. They don’t have time to go all over the territory or area,” Stokman said. “They need to make sure if they go to one place they can find everything they need.”
Online BCP sales
Caterpillar’s research also discovered BCP customers were not necessarily coming into the dealership to fulfill their equipment needs. To attract the customer that may not want to enter a physical store, Caterpillar is now introducing online sales. By the end of 2020, all Cat dealers will sell BCP equipment via their websites.
“This is a critical piece because we’re able to transact more seamlessly and fluidly,” Stokman said.
Cat also plans to accommodate customers that may not want to interact with a salesperson as they shop for new machines.
“They want to explore on their own. It’s our job as a manufacturer to makes sure that we are giving these customers options on how they view our equipment,” Stokman said.
Prices on machines
Within their showrooms, Cat now plans to display machines, in a similar fashion to car dealerships, alongside information about the product.
During the research period, small business owners described Caterpillar as an “aspirational brand.” With that moniker, however, possible BCP customers also believed Cat products were out of their price range.
“They see it as a premium product, and they made an assumption that it came with a premium price,” Stokman said.
To combat that notion, Cat is now encouraging its dealers to display a sales price on their machines.
“We know we are competitively priced, now we’re going to prove it to you,” Stokman said.