Singapore’s Chalkboard goes after Malaysian market

After close to five months of testing in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore-based mobile advertising platform Chalkboard is ready to roll out more aggressively in Malaysia, said its co-founder and CTO, Dr Bernard Leong. He was up in Malaysia’s capital city on March 29 to present Chalkboard to local retailers, digital marketers and branding agencies in Solaris Dutamas, Kuala Lumpur.

Chalkboard is a mobile and web advertising platform that helps businesses increase walk-in traffic by broadcasting promotions to consumers who are within a predetermined radius of about 1km.

Currently, Chalkboard has about 1,000 outlets in Malaysia signed up to the service, with most of them based in the urban areas of the Klang Valley. To further boost the initial uptake of Chalkboard, Leong said that Malaysia-based Alliance Bank had agreed to list its 600 nationwide branches on Chalkboard. The branches would be included into the service in phases, starting with those in Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh, and Port Dickson.

According to Ronnie Lim, head of consumer banking of Alliance Bank in an interview with Marketing Interactive, signing on to the service would enable the bank to let customers know about lifestyle deals offered by the bank’s merchants, including daily deals, dining promotions and installment payment plans.

Chalkboard is planning to work with local mall outlets and retail centres, similar in the way it partnered up with Joo Chiat complex in Singapore, to increase its numbers. To date, it has the co-operation of Publika, an up-and-coming development in Solaris Dutamas with 335,000 sq ft of retail space, and Jaya One, a retail and office complex located in Petaling Jaya, Selangor.

As for the type of clients Chalkboard expects to draw, Leong said that it’s likely to follow a 80-20 pattern as it is in Singapore, where 80% of clients signed on are chain or big-brand retailers, with the remaining 20% comprising small-to-medium sized retailers.

(Clarification: In regards to the 80-20 rule, Leong was referring to estimates rather than confirmed data, which would help determine how the company approaches a new market, specifically in Malaysia and not anywhere else.)

It is Leong’s hope, however, that Chalkboard would increase the numbers in the latter category.

“Chalkboard’s main goal is actually to help the small and medium retailers. Our clients in Singapore are pretty big and that helps us get our name out, but we also want to help the small ones – that’s been the mission and ethos on the company from the start,” he said.

For Malaysian clients, the service carries two pricing tiers: RM540 (USD178) per outlet for 18 months, or RM450 (USD148) per outlet for 12 months. There is a negotiated discount for larger chain-store businesses.

Leong added that Chalkboard’s functionality in Malaysia will be tweaked to cater for population and geographical differences.

“In Singapore, the population density is higher, so we’ve set a one kilometer radius [around any listed merchant, in which promotions show up on phones], but in KL it’s more sparse, so we have some geographical constraints to think and adapt to,” he said.

Currently there are no plans to establish a permanent sales or support office in Malaysia, and Chalkboard will continue to service clients in the Asia-Pacific region from Singapore.

“We’ve got a strong reseller in Maxlink up here, and they’re doing a good job,” he said.

Maxlink is Chalkboard’s authorized partner in Malaysia, whose task is to help sell Chalkboard to local businesses.

Update: Leong said that while they are not setting up a support or sales office in Malaysia, Chalkboard has started operations on the ground with a sales head.

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