Technology companies not only compete in the marketplace, they sometimes vie against each other in product contests.
One of those is Hackomotive, a 3-day competition sponsored by Edmunds.com and intended to bring together entrepreneurial teams from around the country with the goal of creating a better car-buying experience.
The second annual event took place in Santa Monica, CA. The grand prize winner of $20,000 was Seattle-based CarcodeSMS, creator of Carcode.me, a website plug-in that gives dealerships a phone number for mobile shoppers to text and provides dealerships with an app that allows staffers to respond to and manage conversations.
When a dealership signs up, a “Click to Text” button is installed on its mobile website. It gives shoppers an option to phone or email to ask questions and schedule appointments.
Texts are routed to the sales staff for response. CarcodeSMS co-founder Nick Gordon says dealers can receive texts that interact with customer-relationship management software systems while customers get real-time answers.
Carvoyant, developer of software that helps dealers engage with customers using “connected-car” technology, also participated in the competition.
Once linked via a small module to the on-board diagnostic port of most vehicles built since 1996, the Carvoyant software collects vehicle data and alerts the driver and the dealer via mobile app of needed service, miles accumulated on a lease, battery life and even speeds (to, among other things, keep tabs on teenage drivers in the family).
If customers don’t respond to a message from their car, the dealer can reach out to remind them to schedule a service appointment or to start thinking about a new lease.
After dealers purchase the device starting at $65, they can either sell it to customers or provide it free of charge, Carvoyant co-founder Renz Kuipers says.
He won’t say how many dealers are doing business with the Tampa, FL, company, but he says he measures success by the number of developers Carvoyant can attract that see value in the platform.
“Besides dealers, these connecting partners can be repair shops, insurance companies or anyone with a vested interest in improving how they communicate with their customers,” Kuipers says. “These companies are willing to provide a connected-car experience to consumers through Carvoyant, often for free, so they can better provide them with what they need, when they need it.”
Another Hackomotive entrant is the brainchild of graduate students at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Called illbuy.it (for “I’ll buy it”), the product is touted as “the Priceline of car buying.”
Turning the standard shopping process around, illbuy.it lets shoppers create a free listing that describes what they are looking for, including make, model, color, price and mileage.
Sellers pay a monthly fee to view the website listings and can contact buyers if they can match the buyer’s requested vehicle and price.
“With all the information at their fingertips, the dealer would come across as the expert, and that goes a long way for a buyer who is about to make the second-largest purchase in their life,” says CEO Surge Saeed.
Hoping to launch illbuy.it this summer, he says hundreds of people “are eagerly waiting for the light to turn green.”