Will Businesses Embrace Yelp For Ecommerce?

    November 30, 2013
    Chris Crum
    Comments are off for this post.

Yelp may be well known as a reviews site, where you can go to find out what people have said about a restaurant your thinking about trying or a plumber you’re considering calling to fix your sink. Through most of its life, that’s essentially what it has been.

Yelp is evolving, however, and you can probably expect it to start looking a lot different in months and years to come as it looks to “close the loop” in transactions between businesses and consumers. Yelp doesn’t just want to show users what people have said about a business. It wants them to engage with that business and make that Yelp listing visit actually mean something.

Do you think Yelp can help get you more sales? Let us know in the comments.

Earlier this year, Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman spoke at the LeWeb conference in London. In addition to discussing business growth, fake reviews and noting that Yelp is “disrupting the Yellow Pages,” he talked about wanting to bring more ecommerce to his company’s services.

Yelp goes “far beyond restaurants,” Stoppelman said. “I think the number one category right now is shopping, so boutiques, places to buy different things…and so it covers the full range…the Yellow Pages traditionally didn’t cover things like shopping and didn’t really cover things like restaurants, but Yelp obviously cover those pretty well, but goes into the traditional Yellow Pages categories too, like doctors and hair salons, and plumbers.”

Stoppelman added that the selling of products through Yelp would be an “interesting direction.”

He continued, “It’s one we’ve got a toe in the water, but I see a lot of potential, and that is, we have all these people that are essentially shopping online for something offline, and so why not offer those consumers a way to close the transaction? We already do that with OpenTable Top Tables, so you can book your reservation from your iPhone or your Android device.”

“This is an area that we’re interested in…Yelp as a platform…We’re aggregating all these consumers. They’re doing their shopping today, and the problem is that they’re just not closing their transaction. And so you can imagine that you might be able to plug in services like OpenTable for all sorts of verticals, and that could be a really interesting business for us.”

Shortly after that discussion, Yelp launched a feature encouraging transactions called the “Call to Action” feature, making it available to advertisers. Then, they actually launched Yelp Platform, which lets people order things from businesses right from Yelp.

“As we continue to roll this feature out, Yelp Platform will eventually make it a whole lot easier to do everything from scheduling spa treatments and yoga sessions to making dentist appointments and purchasing services, directly through Yelp!” the company said.

Yelp Platform

Then came the SeatMe acquisition. Yelp just started integrating that into the Yelp experience this week. It lets users book restaurant and bar reservations from the venue’s Yelp listing.

The product gives restaurants and bars a flat fee structure without “per diner’ fees. Features for businesses include table management, online reservations, wait list management, and a guestbook.

“Over 117 million average monthly unique visitors (as of Q3 2013) are turning to Yelp to help them decide where to go to spend their hard earned dough and the SeatMe reservation feature is yet another way to help consumers seamlessly close that loop between discovering a great local business and experiencing the best that business has to offer,” says Yelp’s Alex Kvamme in a blog post.

“Since waiting in line isn’t your favorite thing to do (just guessing, but pretty sure I’m right), whip out Yelp and nab a reso before you head out,” Kvamme adds. “Now instead of just drooling over the review highlights for Oakland, CA hot spot Hopscotch (duck fat chips and sweet potato gnocchi?!) you can take your fantasizing to the next level and snag a reservation on the spot.”

According to Yelp, 20% of SeatMe venues are bars and lounges.

This year Yelp also launched the customer activity feed on the business owner’s dashboard, showing businesses real-time leads coming from Yelp through phone calls, website clicks and directions.

Yelp is just getting started in the “closing the loop” business. Expect to see a lot more business offering from the company, and in more verticals in the near future.

Of course, if businesses are going to turn to Yelp to get help drive sales, they’re going to need to have a favorable opinion of Yelp in general, and despite Yelp’s efforts, its reputation among business owners is mixed, to say the least.

But Yelp continues to work on debunking what it deems to be false accusations and myths. Stoppelman participated in a reddit AMA (ask me anything) a couple weeks ago, addressing all the regular accusations head on.

Have you taken advantage of Yelp Platform? Do you expect to use Yelp’s business tools in the future? Let us know in the comments.

  • http://www.theoldcheesefactory.com TOCF

    Anything that helps to encourage customers communicate with a business is good around. The business will build and develop a better relation with a customer, understanding their needs and what they would also like to see changed. Most often that not the only communication with a customer and business, is if something goes wrong which is negative contact.
    Even though the internet is kind of virtual, people still want the human factor, even if it is just someone typing a message live in a little screen box, or something more advanced like SkYPE.

    • http://www.mauisunseeker.com Chuck S

      Dear TOCF-please read what is said by the majority of business owners below and how Yelp is unscrupulous. I agree that customer communication is good, but not when a company like Yelp uses it as blackmail to hold companies hostage until they pay to advertise with them. Google+ or TripAdvisor or Zagat is so much more ethical and reliable. Chuck

  • http://classicdazzle.com Jolean

    I think giving the opportunity for the business to communicate with the customer is great. The idea of appointment setting, reservations or just responding to an issue or positive experience is a fantastic idea. This could possibly change the opinion a lot of business owners have about yelp.

  • http://none Kate woodard

    I think YELP harms more than it helps. I don’t think the majority of comments are TRUE. People are too critical and it can result in harm to an honest business. Yelp thinks they carefully screen comments, but I think they let many bogus comments stand and they discount many honest comments as questionable. As a result, I pay very little attention to YELP.

  • http://www.TeachU.com Chris Reich, TeachU

    Frankly, businesses are justifiably growing weary of “must do” involvements with various social sites. We’ve long understood that the return is far lower than the time investment for most businesses. FaceBook does nothing for the majority of struggling entrepreneurs who participate. Google+ is a joke that no one seems to get. Yelp? Why bother. It’s completely unregulated and a huge opportunity for competitors to run smear campaigns. Smart businesses will stay away from these things. Our participation only generates wealth for the founders. I say put your effort in your own business where it will give a direct return.

  • http://www.TeachU.com Chris Reich, TeachU

    BTW, businesses that want to open direct communication with customers can do so using an amazingly creative, little-known trick: ANSWER THE PHONE.

  • http://vrielingwoodworks.com Paul

    To me, YELP has zero integrity and I would never, ever think of working with them. In their beginnings, i encouraged clients to create accounts and leave me a review. After several positive reviews, which took months to accrue, yelp calls and asks me if I want to advertise. “No thank you.” I reply. The next week, I check my listing and ALL of my reviews were flagged. If you click on the link next to why, it tells potential customers that they believe I faked all my reviews. What kind of company does that? I send you traffic and you try to make me look like a shady business owner? Again, no thanks.

    • http://www.mauisunseeker.com Chuck S

      Thank you Paul, for verifying the exact same experience I had with them. They purposely take down positive reviews and leave up negative reviews until you advertise with them. They lost several class action suits because of this ‘blackmail’ practice

  • http://www.sumtotalmarketing.com Joe

    I think businesses would embrace Yelp more if they felt the review system was fair. For some business types it makes more sense than others. For very local businesses there is more opportunity.

    We are working with a client in the travel industry and more than half their customers come from overseas. Several of them told the client that they wrote reviews on Yelp. However, when the client went to look, the reviews weren’t there. (Of course these were positive.) This may be because the secret algorithm blocks reviews from outside a set geographic area, but who knows?

    When we looked into it further we found that they were buried in the “Not Recommended” reviews. Additionally, the NR reviews are by default sorted from worst to best.

    This client wants nothing to do with Yelp. We still believe there is opportunity there. However, its difficult to convince someone who believes the odds are stacked against them that they should invest time, effort, and money in fighting for it.

  • Joe

    I would never spend a dime with Yelp. 1 negative review dominates your page and all your positive reviews go into “filtered” results. Yelp has no integrity, negative reviews from years ago remain on your page and once you contact them as to why your good reviews are buried, they start trying to get advertising dollars from you. These people are pirates.

  • http://www.seventhman.com/ Shaleen Shah

    I think that Yelp taking a proactive step against fake reviews is the first step for new businesses to trust the platform, making them want to get listed on that site. Still, there are those who feel like you’re playing Russian roulette with your online rep so may skip signing up. It’s all a matter of trust, I believe.

  • Greg

    Maye no yelp but some platform will – all designs that are good at providing clear customer feedback and information will ultimately do this. Twitter can’t and Face book is too messy.

  • Tia Maria

    The idea of Yelp sucks..
    Where owners of businesses have no say as to whether they want even their business represented..
    Where anyone can write and say anything about a business regardles if it is true or not..

    Yelp is just a shot in the dark because their is no REAL credibility with Yelp.
    How can anyone allow anyone to say whatever without repercussions.
    Yelp just SUKS!
    Yelp is a joke and any business owner knows that :)

  • http://vipclassics.com Roy Sayles

    I am the owner of vip classics. In 2012 a very negative and totally incorrect statement was placed on yelp about my company at my previous showroom at 861 5th av San Diego. The problem is I had moved my business from that location in 2009. So the fool was making comment about a completely different company this has now been picked up by other web info sites and has cost me. In spite of me trying to reach Yelps legal department with no response. I am now considering leading a class action lawsuit against the authors and yelp. I have been contacted by previous client’s that have written exhalant reviews which yelp takes down presumably because we are not advertising with them Please send this to yelps legal department maybe you can get some response for me before this gets out of hand My phone # is 619 708 3180 Roy

  • http://vipclassics.com Roy Sayles

    Re the above any one can tell by my classic autos currently for sale and previously sold by looking at my web site at vipclassics.com I don’t mean this as an add just proof of the quality. vipclassic.com

  • http://vipclassics.com Roy Sayles

    Re the above any one can tell by my classic autos currently for sale and previously sold by looking at my web site at vipclassics.com I don’t mean this as an add just proof of the quality. vipclassic.com

  • http://vipclassics.com Roy Sayles

    Re the above any one can tell by my classic autos currently for sale and previously sold by looking at my web site at vipclassics.com I don’t mean this as an add just proof of the quality. vipclassic.com

  • Brian

    Yelp has secret algorithm that chooses which reviews are filtered, this is a big problem. All reviews need to be posted good and bad, or reveal the secret. Most users are intelligent enough to interpret reviews. Most users don’t know this, that many reviews are filtered, you are only seeing a chosen set of post. Also how does a business protect itself from false reviews, yelp does not help with this process.

    If you go into a restaurant that has an hour wait all you have to do is say I am going to leave a bad yelp review , see how long the wait is after that.

    A business should have the right to not be apart of yelp if it chooses.

  • http://www.mauisunseeker.com Chuck S

    Yelp lost a lot of credibility with hotels like mine, so no I don’t see them playing much of a role in ecommerce for businesses. If you ask business and restaurant owners what they think of Yelp, I’m sure you’ll finder 90 put dislike the service.
    Yelp blackmailed people into advertising by only posting negative reviews and ‘taking down’ positive ones that came until you advertised with them. They had several class action suits that they lost for this practice. It’s amazing people still rely on their reviews at all.
    As they couldn’t be trusted for accurate reviews and used unscrupulous business practices, I think they have serious issues growing in any other way.

  • http://www.pgnagency.com Pete Doanato

    I have used Yelp on both side as an consumer and a business. There are some very serious issues. The system has a very bad habit of filter honest and real reviews but if you have an illegitimate review some but competition and some by unreasonable clients that can’t be satisfied. So as things tend to play out you can’t get a true value.

    This makes the true of the value and purpose of the site in question. And the bigger issue is if you buy there program and you ask for the dates and times or any info on the number of times your ad has been displayed your out of luck. No that’s right you can’t get that info NOTHING.

    I’m not sure of there honesty. That is what I have personally experienced.

  • http://None rhonda

    As a mear consumer I realize Yelp is a poor attempt to “steer” consumers. They control what is viewed/ showing on their site and they offer clients a way to show only positive reviews for a fee. Consumers are not stupid, the truth always comes out and Yelp is fake as is all those review site. There are businesses in place fixing people reviews. Don’t make the mistake of trusting such sites.

  • http://skywaytools.com/default.asp Sherry G

    Yelp REALLY, REALLY messed with my business. I have a tool store in Chico, CA with my 67 yr old husband and we also have an online tool store. We’ve been in business for 28 years and there is not enough room in this comment section to tell you how hard my husband and I have worked to stay in business and provide jobs to our 2 employees. Yelp provided a platform for a young woman to get on and drag our store through the mud by criticizing us and giving us a 1 rating. Our crime? We sell recycled barrels that my 67 yr old husband drives around the county, finds, hauls to the store, washes, dries and resells – in the sun, rain, snow – and she was mad because the sign on our store said a price for the metal barrels and we wouldn’t give her the same price for the premium plastic barrels we also sell. Here we were, having almost lost our business in this horrible economy, my husband having to work in his senior years with no retirement in sight, moved out of our house of 20 years so we could keep our employees working and getting paid – I mean, we have heroically worked like DOGS to keep this together – and Yelp allows some NITWIT to drive us down online. When they allowed this it showed up in the search engines all over any search for our business or anything remotely close to our business. To answer your question, I won’t be forgetting soon how Yelp assisted some quack in trying to drive us out of business when we were fighting for our very existence.

  • http://www.HypnosisinSanDiego.com Diane

    What’s up with Google giving Yelp so much space on the first page. Are they paying Google? I’ve had really great reviews put on Yelp by my clients and they disappear after a week. I can’t understand why this happens. Yelp is very very frustrating and I wish business would stop using it. That might make them more sensitive to what they do. But I doubt it!!

    • http://www.mauisunseeker.com Chuck S

      Diane-you are a victim of Yelp’s blackmail process to try and get you to advertise with them by paying for a premium listing. Please see my comment up above as they did the same exact thing to me. They left a 4 year old complaint made against the previous owners up and whenever my clients made positive comments, they would leave them up for a day then wipe them off the page and say it was an algorithm. It’s BS. They then kept calling me to try and sell me ads. I finally paid for one and guess what? The good reviews finally stayed up. This is such an unscrupulous company, I wish the DOJ would investigate them. Good luck with your issues. I regret I paid any ransom to them and advise other business owners not to.