Check-In Deals: Yelp Gets in the Game

Today Yelp announced its latest move down the LBS path, with a new set of tools for merchants to create and manage local check-in deals. The product, on which we were briefed yesterday, follows last January’s launch of check-ins for users of its mobile apps.

First, this is a user-centric move in that deals will boost the appeal of checking in. This is very much in line with the market’s direction, as services work to “move beyond the check-in.” As this happens, competition will drive more check-in deals and incentive programs.

Tied closely to that is the merchant end of the equation. In that sense, today’s move is equally merchant-centric. A revamped dashboard will have a section for businesses to control the deals users see when they check in. This is separate from existing offers on Yelp profile pages.

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This is very much in line with some of Yelp’s recent moves to deploy tools that better solidify mobile marketing in the eyes of its merchant advertisers (and non-advertisers). You may remember in June when it began to spotlight mobile usage analytics for merchants.

That came with the assertion that Yelp mobile usage is exploding and it’s time to show merchants — sort of a teaser for the benefits that can come from an enhanced mobile presence. Today, more than 30 percent of Yelp’s overall traffic comes from mobile.

The other thing this follows is the market’s general gravitation toward tools for merchants to manage check-in deals specifically. Foursquare continues to add dashboard features for SMBs, while Facebook launched this capability recently with Deals (though this is very early).

These moves are gaining momentum not just because of growing LBS usage, but also a sense that merchants want to offer deals to incentivize foot traffic. The latter is supported by massive advertiser demand for Groupon, i.e., paying for new customers vs. traditional ad placements.

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Though the tech media focuses on Facebook Places and Foursquare, I contend that Yelp is pretty well positioned in the emerging local check-in/LBS space. Not only does it see massive mobile usage — i.e., figures above and download status among iPhone apps — but it has more of an “in” with SMBs.

This is the part often overlooked, and a reality into which Foursquare and Facebook Places will soon collide. As we’ve argued, Yelp has longstanding relationships with SMBs, ability to cross-promote with online assets and, most important, a physical (inside) sales force.

These things can’t be forgotten, as they position Yelp more favorably than these other media darlings of the check-in space. Though Yelp gets due credit as a local search and reviews leader, in the check-in/LBS arena, it’s more of a dark horse (so far). But it’s where my money lies.

We’ll get to hear more next month from Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman, who will give a keynote address to kick off our Interactive Local Media conference. Meanwhile, the new check-in deals will be available first for Yelp’s iPhone and Android apps, other platforms likely to follow.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Will Scott

    Mike,

    One of the most interesting data points from our survey of Foursquare “Advertisers” was that Yelp had the greatest brand recognition of any of the alternative check-in services and led by a considerable margin among directory sites.

    I think there area combination of reasons including notoriety due to the lawsuits, and SMB adoption.

    At some point I’d like to do a follow up with a broader base in which we look at “Advertiser” sentiment regarding a number of rating and review sites nationwide.

    In our last revision of the survey, > 90% were actively pursuing check-ins on Yelp (~65% FB Places) )and 100% had heard of Yelp (88% Citysearch, 83% Groupon).

    So, I tend to agree that Yelp as an SMB check-in option is greatly underrated.

    Will

  2. Mike Boland

    Interesting angle Will, and supportive of Yelp’s brand equity in this space. Definitely follow up after you field that next survey (Search Influence study I assume?). I’d love to get the results and blog/disseminate them here. Also let me know if you’ll be at ILM.
    Mike

  3. Will Scott

    Mike,

    I need to get a panel going of “Average Online Advertisers”

    The surveys have been a collaboration with Greg Sterling and some other Local SEOs.

    I wish I was going to be at ILM. We’ll have to talk before the next event about speaking opps.

    I’ll be sure to keep you up to date as we gather more data!

    Will

  4. Mike Boland

    Good stuff. Let me know what i can do. And Yes re: next conf speaking opp. We’ll be in Boston in March for the next show.

    I’ve been trying to fill the stage and audience with more SEO types in addition to our usual suspects of local media publishers (search engines, IYPs, vertical sites).

    I’ve been getting Steve Espinosa, David Mihm, Andrew Shotland, and a few others involved more heavily. Let’s talk.

    we can take this offline (so to speak) at some point – mbolandATkelseygroup.com

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