It’s no secret that car dealers generally have a bad reputation. Customers have a hard time trusting salespeople in the industry due to a notorious history of questionable tactics.
Many reputable dealerships are still working to escape from that shadow, and the software developed by Mobile Dealer Data provides a tool toward that end. The local startup, based out of Uptown Minneapolis, is implementing mobile apps to add clarity and insight to the car-buying process.
CEO Colin McElhatton spent 13 years in the automotive business after returning from an eight-year stint in the Marine Corps. The advent of mobile devices captivated him as a means to improve customer experience.
“When iPhones and iPads came out I fell in love with them and really saw an opportunity for those devices to streamline some of the business processes that dealerships have in place,” he says.
He brought his idea to develop mobile apps for dealerships to Jeffrey Hagen, who got on board and became a cofounder. Together they launched their company as Idea House in 2009, but — realizing that the name didn’t really describe their business — they rebranded as Mobile Dealer Data last January.
The company is built around two signature applications: CustomerEDGE and SalesEDGE. The first is consumer-facing, and is designed to open convenient lines of communication between the buyer and the dealer. Using their phone, customers can schedule service appointments, receive recall information via push notifications, request roadside assistance, contact specific departments and more.
“It’s really a customer engagement and customer retention tool that dealerships use to keep their customers happy and engaged, and make sure they utilize their service department,” explains McElhatton.
The second product, SalesEDGE, is geared toward the sales staff itself, serving as a resource for education and research. McElhatton notes that car buyers today are more informed than ever, so it’s vitally important for salespeople to be informed and agile. Using the app, employees can search inventory, answer customer questions, capture trade-in information and more.
Through both these apps, the crew at Mobile Dealer Data believes that dealerships can create stronger relationships with customers and distance themselves from those pesky preconceptions. McElhatton says the company is already seeing strong interest, with 100 new clients added in just the past year. He adds that multiple potential partners have taken notice and a few are already re-selling their products.
“We’re in a very good growth mode,” says McElhatton. “It’s been exciting to build something and actually see people pay for it.”