Chitika, a Westborough, Mass.-based online advertising network, has launched a new product that helps small businesses reach mobile users at just the right time and in the right place.
The app, dubbed Cidewalk (iOS and Android), allows marketers to affordably launch an on-the-spot promotional campaign that reaches local, smartphone-carrying consumers in a few minutes. A few taps and as little as $1 later, small and midsized businesses (SMBs) can promote a sale or tonight's dinner special on the apps that prospective customers already use.
Chitika CEO and co-founder Venkat Kolluri likens Cidewalk and the ad platform that powers the app to a "connection engine." In this case, the solution links small businesses with nearby mobile consumers.
Cidewalk came about after Kolluri and his team surveyed the small business online advertising landscape and found that options were lacking. Big-budget, enterprise-grade ad platforms gave major brands the reach and targeting options that were simply too much for the local eatery, salon or boutique around the corner.
Small Businesses Think Local
"SMBs were interested in just connecting to local consumers," discovered Kolluri. It's a market that "used to be dominated by the yellow pages," he told Small Business Computing.
But as the explosive popularity of smartphones and tablets hasten the extinction of phone books, shop owners and entrepreneurs want the local reach of the yellow pages plus the timely ad delivery models that mobile ad networks make possible. What's more, small business owners don't want to spend a fortune on marketing specialists to massage their message or to burnish their brands.
The local small business owner "isn't thinking about a $100,000 media campaign [or] of hiring a digital agency," said Kolluri. "He knows what he wants to say."
Chitika's answer to this small business dilemma: an advertising platform app called Cidewalk.
After downloading the app and logging in, you can pick the exact town or vicinity where you want your ads shown. This first step "limits the scope of promotion to the small business owners' immediate area" and ensures that their small business ad dollars are well-spent, said Kolluri.
Cidewalk then provides space for promotional copy, essentially a mobile-friendly, two-line text banner ad. The company suggests an attention grabbing headline for the first line, followed by additional information such as percent-off savings and eligibility details.
Lastly, advertisers can select how customers contact them. Options include a website, phone number, email and physical address.
Local Small Business Ads on Apps
After approving a preview of the mobile banner ad, you enter your payment information (the app supports secure Stripe payments and PayPal) and select the number of views you wish to purchase. One dollar buys 1,000 views, or advertisers can opt for 3,000 views for $3 or 5,000 views for $5.
Upon finalizing the transaction, Cidewalk "connects to all the mobile ad exchanges and across our own networks," said Kolluri. All told, small businesses gain "access to tens of thousands of apps." Cidewalk ads appear in popular apps, including Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, The Weather Channel, NFL and Reuters, within five minutes. A real-time monitoring option lets you track your ads' performance, including how many times people clicked on them, and where they viewed them.
That speed can help turn a slow day around, said Kolluri. For example, instead of running the risk of fresh ingredients piling up and possibly spoiling during a rain-soaked day, a pizzeria owner can quickly fire off an ad campaign.
Somewhere in town, or the next town over, there are people willing to brave the elements for some cheap eats. When the flow of customers slows to a trickle, restaurants and shops can leverage Cidewalk to "incentivize them with a special offer," said Kolluri.
The fact of the matter is that for many local businesses, success is often measured in days, sometimes hours, according to Kolluri. Cidewalk allows companies to latch onto opportunities and perhaps change the course of their businesses within minutes.
"I'm not planning for the next three months or next summer," he said, characterizing a small business owner's mindset. "I'm just thinking about today."
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Computing. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.
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