Since its inception in 2004, Yelp has become a go-to destination for consumers researching nearby restaurants and shops, as well as timely promotions.
Increased smartphone adoption has been a key contributor to the ongoing growth of the social network. This largely is because many shoppers turn to Yelp for last-minute information while on the go.
During the following Q&A session, Darnell Holloway, Senior Manager of Local Business Outreach at Yelp, shares how the network provides a valuable opportunity for businesses of all sizes to be seen across devices — from desktops/laptops to mobile devices. In addition, Holloway shares a series of best practices to help merchants connect, engage and communicate with potential and current customers.
Retail TouchPoints (RTP): Today’s consumers are empowered by the amount of information and resources they have access to via the web and mobile devices. How is this trend changing the ways merchants interact with consumers to drive awareness and sales?
Holloway: According to a recent Nielsen study, four out of five Yelp users visit the site when preparing to spend money. This represents a huge opportunity for independent retailers to get in front of potential customers when they’re on the verge of making a buying decision. Beyond that, we believe that retailers who are positioning themselves to get in front of mobile consumers are giving themselves a distinct advantage over competitors.
In Q2 2013, Yelp saw a monthly average of 108 million unique visitors to our site, and our mobile application was used on approximately 10.4 million unique mobile devices per month on average. However, approximately 45% of all searches on Yelp came from our mobile apps. In addition, a consumer generated directions to or called a local business from a Yelp mobile app once every second, which indicates a strong intent to purchase.
RTP: How have social media and ratings/reviews sites changed the relationships between merchants and consumers?
Holloway: Consumers have always shared word-of-mouth recommendations, and now social media allows businesses to know what’s being said about them. With that in mind, it’s important for business owners to join the conversation with their customers by responding — diplomatically of course — to their reviews.
RTP: What are the key challenges and opportunities for merchants that have presence on Yelp and other ratings/reviews sites?
Holloway: A recent study conducted by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) revealed that there is a direct financial incentive for small business owners to engage with their Yelp listing. BCG found that small businesses with a free business owner’s account saw an average of $8,000 in annual revenue from Yelp. Advertisers benefit nearly three times as much, generating average annual revenues from Yelp of more than $23,000.
Overall, the early adopters are getting a significant head start over their competition when it comes to new customer acquisition and deepening relationships with loyal customers.
RTP: What pain points do organizations face in managing their presence on ratings/reviews sites? How can they respond to negative feedback quickly and efficiently?
Holloway: More than three quarters (79%) of the reviews on Yelp are three stars or higher, but every business out there will likely receive negative feedback at some point because it’s impossible to please 100% of the people you deal with 100% of the time.
That being said, here are four best practices for reputation management:
- Start with great customer service: Generally speaking, most successful businesses place an emphasis on making sure their customers feel great after they walk out the door. Due to the popularity of social media, business owners should “treat their customers as if they were newspaper reporters,” according to a recent Forbes article.
- Stay cool: If you find yourself getting too emotional over your reviews, you may not be the best person to respond. Try appointing an office manager, or another employee that you trust, as the point person to manage your online reviews. Also note that if you see a review written by someone with an “orange head” and no friends, it may not be worth losing sleep over. Consumers on Yelp naturally gravitate to reviewers who have an established presence, and that’s generally where your time is best spent.
- Respond diplomatically: Use Yelp’s free review response tools at biz.yelp.com to join the conversation about your business. You can respond privately or publicly, but always take the high road. If you feel like a review goes against our terms of service, you also have the option of flagging it for evaluation by our user support team.
- Implement feedback: Online reviews can help savvy business owners determine what they’re doing well, and what they can improve. We’ve met with several business owners who go over Yelp reviews with their employees during staff meetings, and implement constructive feedback accordingly.
RTP: Why is the rise of mobile especially beneficial to merchants? How can retailers and restaurants ensure they’re seen and accessible on mobile devices?
Holloway: As a merchant, make sure your business can be found on mobile devices by implementing the following steps via a free business owner account at biz.yelp.com:
- Post a check-in offer: Posting a check-in offer allows you to attract potential customers who are on the go and searching for your type of business through the Yelp mobile app. Structure your check-in offer by selecting the offer type from the drop-down menu (percentage off, price off, fixed price, free item) to get started.
- Describe your business: The more information a consumer has when making a buying decision, the better. For those using Yelp’s mobile application, make sure to add your web site, business hours and other basic business information.
- Post photos: No matter what type of business you own, adding photos is highly recommended. In fact, people searching Yelp to find a business that fits their needs spend more than double the amount of time on a business page with photos as opposed to one without. Headshots, staff photos, your business’ storefront and before-and-after photos are good starting points in showing off the great business you run.