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.
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.