Yelp has arrived, complete with all the features available in the US. Local businesses and consumers will be the big beneficiaries. Losers include local competing directory providers like finda, localist, menus, dineout and others. The Yelp system can largely replace what most others can offer consumers looking to track down good businesses to deal with. And Yelp do it better and cheaper too. i.e. FREE.
The trend towards these sorts of services is obvious. When people are looking for a new restaurant, shop or service provider, just getting a listing of businesses isn’t enough today. They need to know what others think of them first. We’ve seen this with amazon where over 95% of buyers will checkout the reviews before any purchase. Yelps emphasis on this side is the key to its success. Consumers will generally ignore what a business says about themselves and instead reply upon what other customers have experienced.
Already their NZ database lists thousands of local businesses and this is set to explode over the coming months.
Restaurants, Retailers the big winners
Yelp is most popular in the retail, restaurant and entertainment sectors. Even at this early stage they boast over a thousand reviews for Auckland restaurants (see chart, right). This number is already approaching what some local established providers like www.menus.co.nz and others have achieved after many years of effort and expense. The launch of Yelp in NZ will provide these restaurant owners another method to gain new business and unlike those costly directory websites that require their high monthly or annual fees, Yelp is a totally FREE service!
Small, cash-strapped retailers, many of whom have a poor online presence will be the other huge winners. Yelp makes it easy to stand out if you offer quality service and products.
The trick of course to getting business from Yelp is to keep your customers happy and provide good service, thereby earning top reviews and referrals. Compared with other review services, yelp is less prone to attracting just bargain hunters and also being manipulated since the reviewers themselves have to build their own decent profile.
A Better Directory Offering?
I do suspect that some of these early NZ reviews on Yelp have been written with some marketing input. According to NBR, they’ve employed a local manager and staff to kick off the listings and reviews. But over time as more local people use the system, we should get loads more real-world reviews. From the US experience, Yelp reviews tend to have higher authority than those seen on most other directories. Fake or suspect reviews is the biggest problem with most systems today.
Local established providers like localist, menus and others will no doubt put on a brave face, but it’s an uphill battle. After all, the Yelp has a better website, better mobile apps and provided at nil cost. It’s a tough package to compete against. Yelp is good news for consumers looking for more truthful reviews and good for businesses that should be rewarded for providing the best possible service.
Ultra-Modern Marketing Pack for the Retail and Hospitality Sectors
But Yelp is still new in NZ and the name is new to many here. Certainly it’s an instant replacement for those wasting money on costly, less effective offerings from localist, finda, yellow, gopher, menus, dineout, hotfrog etc that generally provide relatively few sales leads for the money spent. The popular Trademe is always there of course, but these are sites for the bargain-seekers, which isn’t always ideal or appropriate. Similarly with the multitude of ‘hot deals’ websites that bring good traffic, but little profit for retailers.
To grow loyal clients, profits and a good reputation, most retail and service businesses still need their own WordPress website or e-storefront and to be found on Google+ as well as Facebook, both offering listings, referral traffic and mobile apps. In my book Yelp is the fancy, indispensable icing on the cake. WordPress + Google + Facebook + Yelp. Magic.
So, log on to Yelp.co.nz or download Yelp’s mobile app to start spreading your opinions and wisdom. Businesses can get in on the action, at biz.yelp.co.nz claiming their page for free and building out their profile.