September 10, 2013 Last Updated 9:15 am

B2B: Caterpillar launches its own customer news, information apps

There are plenty of good reasons why B2B publishers have been so slow to launch mobile or tablet apps, but the two reasons heard most often are costs and resources – many B2Bs are already cash strapped due to the economy and the changing media landscape, and with layoffs and outsourcing many B2B no longer have the resources to build app in-house.

I would buy into these reasons were it not for the fact that I worked in B2B in the 90’s when times were good, profits were rising and most B2Bs missed out on the Internet boom by letting pure plays and outside vendors take their business. Rather than lead their customers onto the web, most B2Bs were themselves late to launch their first websites. Sadly, most B2B magazines remain with very poor websites and little strategy concerning the web – the advertising journals being some of the exceptions.

I think it was at this time, the late 90’s, that U.S. B2Bs started to lose a connection with their clients. Big advertisers no longer looked to the the B2B magazines in their field for new ideas and trends. As far as the web went, it was VerticalNet that first introduced website advertising, though eventually companies decided that they needed to have their own web presence, under their own control.

CatNews-iPad-lgToday, in a world of apps, the same pattern seems to be playing out. Many industrial and manufacturing firms have launched their own business apps, and a few have launched Newsstand apps for their existing customer magazines.

Caterpillar, the giant construction equipment manufacturer, has a number mobile and tablet apps inside both the Apple App Store and Google Play. Yesterday the company launched a brand new one called CatUsed Inspect, an app intended to be used by Caterpillar dealers when they inspect used equipment. The universal app is currently only in the Apple App Store, but may appear soon in Google Play as all of Cat’s apps are duplicated in the two app stores. (Oddly, there is an existing inspection app for the iPhone still inside the app store which is priced at $49.99. I assume it was priced at this level to discourage consumers from downloading it. That app is also missing from the Google Play store so it is possible that the manufacturer is encouraging its dealers to use iPhones and iPads at its store locations.)

Cat’s news, Caterpillar Inc. News, has been around since last Spring and is a simple, though well-designed news app.

What is missing, of course, is any time of customer magazine. Cat has always had great relations with the B2B magazines, and was my largest customer when I published a transportation construction magazine many moons ago.

I’m a bit surprised something has not been launched as the B2B construction magazines are way behind when it comes to mobile and tablet publishing, with none of the major titles having launched anything. A few news apps existed for niche titles, but for the most part the construction magazines to be found inside the Newsstand in this category come from India and are replica editions.

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