Yelp reveals location-based check-ins for businesses

23 Nov 2010

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In a move that brings it directly into competition with Facebook and Foursquare, local search and reviews service Yelp has revealed a new location-based check-in service that will enable businesses to accurately reward shoppers with discounts.

San Francisco-based Yelp is active in cities across North America and Europe, including cities in Ireland such as Dublin, Cork and Limerick.

The company, which had last year been an acquisition target of Google, allows users to post reviews of businesses, as well as enabling businesses to showcase their offers on Yelp.

The company today launched a new Yelp for Business Owners that allows businesses to better manage their message to consumers and places offers and updates around their pages.

Check-in offers

A key component of the new offering is check-in offers, whereby every time a customer checks in on their mobile phone while in a business premises, it unlocks a special offer.

All the user has to do is show the business owner the special certificate on their phone.

Bryan Byrne, an Irishman who is director of business and revenue at Yelp’s Silicon Valley headquarters told Siliconrepublic: “If a user frequented a store or restaurant more than three times in a month they could be entitled to a free offer or discount.”

I asked Byrne if this brings him into competition with other – ahem – well-known web companies. “I think everyone in this business has their own strategy around location. Location is very exciting and we’re giving ordinary businesses the opportunity to marry location applications with good business sense.

“Using Yelp for business, firms can post different types of offers, update their hours of business and message customers. Using location services, a restaurant could offer regular customers 10pc off their bill every time they check in.”

Byrne explained that Yelp has soft-launched the service with more than 1,000 businesses and mentioned Cafe Azteca in Dublin among some of the first in the world to utilise Yelp’s location services. Cafe Azteca has already uploaded an offer: "Get 10pc of your order with 1 check-in."

Deals ahoy

He added that Yelp is working on products that will enable it to compete with Facebook Deals and Groupon and that its Yelp Deals product is going from strength to strength. “It’s being tested in the US now and it’s going very well.”

Byrne said the new Yelp for Business Owners technology is a win-win for business owners and their customers. “It’s a suite of free tools and the check-in offers component will enable businesses to reward customers who are loyal.”

He explained that the location-based services will be available on iPhone and Android devices from today.

Yelp, which is estimated to bring in revenues of US$30m a year, has been active in North America for six years and has been available in Ireland the past 18 months.

Yelp spokesperson Chantelle Karl explained the key aim of Yelp for Business Owners is to allow business owners to make better use of not only their online real estate on Yelp but also communicate better with their customers. “Whether it’s special occasions or sharing news about their business, introducing a new menu, opening hours or an upcoming event, the key is to foster a sense of community and engage better with people who are also likely to write reviews.”

If a Dublin – or any Irish business – wants to claim its Yelp page for free and upload a Yelp check-in offer, they may go to http://www.yelp.ie/business/unlocking to get started.

Karl explained there are now more than 14 million reviews up on Yelp.

Byrne piped in: “The Yelp community is very active and 30pc of searches come from mobile applications.”

In fact, the Yelp app is so popular on the iPhone that it has been listed on the Apple App Store’s Hall of Fame.

He concluded that Yelp is working on an iPad app. The company is also looking at potential integrations with web TV.

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Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com