The popular online classified site Craigslist is inspiring a host of businesses to launch their local classified channels online. The latest, Belmont, Calif.-based startup ZiXXo, this month launched its online classified services nationwide.

ZiXXo combines free online classified advertising with printable coupons businesses use to attract new consumers with special discounts and free offers.

The two-year-old company’s free classified ads feature category-specific forms to guide advertisers through posting an ad, field-based search that is specific to each category, user ratings, ad ratings, anonymous e-mail and pictures. Classified categories include real estate, jobs, cars, rideshare, personals and services, among others.

The site currently services about 100 metropolitan areas nationwide. It differentiates itself from other classified channels by offering additional search options. For example, consumers searching real estate classifieds can specify property features, address, price, for-sale-by-agent or for-sale-by-owner in their queries.

ZiXXo targets consumers and small businesses, with a focus on connecting local buyers with local sellers. The Web site currently does not have a large amount of real estate ads, but chief executive Mike Hogan sees opportunity in the space.

“I think that real estate agents would find it interesting as a means for promoting their homes,” Hogan said.

During a beta test, ZiXXo had a real estate agent in California who used the coupon service to offer prospective clients a free comparative market assessment of their homes.

ZiXXo is privately financed and has a partnership with HP, using the company’s hardware to produce print-on-demand coupons for small businesses. The coupon program enables businesses to create their own coupons, and offers suggestions for coupons with specific objectives, such as increasing business during slow times or introducing new products and services.

The start-up is eyeing the roughly $30 billion classified market, as well as the coupon market, which Hogan said produces about 335 billion coupons in the U.S. each year.

“People don’t realize you can do anything with a coupon, like getting new people in, rewarding repeat business and referrals,” Hogan said.

Having a Web site is not mandatory for businesses wanting to use ZiXXo.

Greg Sterling, program director with The Kelsey Group, a research company that monitors yellow pages companies, electronic directories and local media, noted the growing trend of services like ZiXXo that offer an online advertising service without the need for a Web site. Other examples include LiveDeal, an online classifieds market offering local search capabilities, and Craigslist, an online community that keeps a separate Web site for each of its metro markets.

“There are two simultaneous trends going on: greater small business Web site adoption, and a corresponding trend where you don’t need a Web site,” Sterling said.

Even as more consumers are using the Internet to find local information, particularly in real estate, these services provide more options for the local advertiser, he said.


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