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Yelp Expands Social Analytics Knowledge For Local Businesses

"For voice and chat, you have to have the data to handle real-world interaction," says Yelp COO Jed Nachman, speaking with Yext's Jim Steele at Yext Onward.

Yelp’s shift from a primarily desktop experience to a mobile app one is continuing to move higher, as shown in last week’s Q3 earnings, when the local guide’s app presence on unique devices surpassed 30 million on a monthly average basis, growing 21 percent gain over the same period last year.

In a conversation at Yext’s Onward 2017 conference with Yext President and Chief Revenue Officer Jim Steele,  Yelp COO Jed Nachman discussed the influence on the shift to mobile and apps on local businesses’ reviews and reputation. (Full disclosure: Yext is GeoMarketing’s parent company. More details on that relationship here)

Steele and Nachman also talked about the role of Connected Intelligence systems that consumers have been rapidly embracing and how different forms of customer relationship management are changing the way businesses respond to consumers.

“For voice and chat, you have to have the data to handle real-world interaction,” Nachman told Steele, as part of highlighting Yext’s and Yelp’s expanded partnership on Yelp Knowledge, which analyzes businesses’ reviews to help  understand the experience at specific locations. We caught up with Nachman after his on stage discussion.

GeoMarketing: What is Yelp Knowledge and is this a new product of an evolution of an existing one?

Jed Nachman: It’s relatively new. It really has gained some traction over the past year. It effectively allows businesses to monitor review activity and really get semantic analysis over all of your reviews across all of your locations in all of your geographies. You can then slice-and-dice that data to make insightful business decisions.

We use machine learning in order to make sure we’re bringing out the best insights from those businesses. It’s about not only, “Hey, what’s happening?” but, “How can I use that data to actually improve my business?”

How does Yelp Knowledge work in action and how does it reflect the expanded partnership with Yext?

We haven’t finalized it on how it’s going to appear in the Yext dashboard, but that is how businesses can access the insights. It’s part of buying either Yelp directly or buying Yelp Knowledge through Yext. That’s going to be part of the buffet of things that you can use to help improve your business. We’re excited to have the distribution on the Yext side, and that’s a really important part of that partnership.

How is Yelp itself evolving?

Largely, I think people think about Yelp as a place to go find a restaurant or a burrito. We’re getting a lot deeper into the local space. We’re in home services, health and medical, and our ability to broaden our ability to connect people and local business has expanded greatly. We’re a very horizontal company, although most folks think of us as very vertically specific, because the entry point into Yelp is, in fact, restaurants.

How have you communicated that idea to Yelpers?

We don’t want to force anything on the consumers. Really, we see a natural migration. People get hooked in on the restaurant category and over a period of time migrate to all those other categories. It stretches across the board.

There’s really nothing that we’re covering on the local level, as long as it has a physical location or is a physical service.

That said, we’re doubling down on restaurants and we’re doubling down on home services with the Request-A-Quote product. Consumer adoption is phenomenal and business adoption is really cool. Right now we get over 75-to-80 percent of business owners responding within in a day to a quote coming in. A very high percentage of those respond within an hour. It really ultimately makes that experience for the consumer a lot better.

Yelp Chief Operating Officer,Jed Nachman and Yext President and Chief Revenue Officer Jim Steele, on stage at Yext’s Onward 2017

About 70 percent of Yelp’s usage comes directly from its mobile app now, whereas a few years ago, search engines drove 70 percent of Yelp visits. Has that changed the way consumers and business interact through the platform?

I think it has. It’s always great to have a direct tie-in to that consumer relationship. It’s less of a, “Oh my, I happened upon you” and more deliberate, such as, “I’m going to go in and find whatever it is I’m going to find.”

The challenge with apps is that the screen’s a lot smaller. We used to be a desktop-driven business and made the decision as a company to go all in on mobile. It certainly makes you think about how that consumer experience happens on the phone, but we’re thrilled with it.

Has that changed Yelp’s brand identity?

I don’t think there’s been a redefinition, but you’re certainly seeing other legs of our business model coming out. When we look out into the future here, the ability to transact on a site like Yelp is going to be very, very important in all categories. Whether that’s done from Yelp-owned and-operated properties or partner properties, ultimately that’s a big win for the consumer, and it’s really a big win for the business owner, because they can close the loop on attribution.

If I’m doing Yelp advertising and somebody’s making a reservation, it’s pretty clear what happens there. That’s been the Holy Grail for advertisers: How do you close that loop from when someone sees an ad for your business and then decides to use it?

A number of location-based platform companies have expanded their online-to-offline attribution capabilities in the past year. Do you partner with any of them on attribution, or does Yelp simply do it all in-house?

We have a ton of our own data, just based on locations listed in our network and the 100 million users that are using us every single month.

The ability to also understand location in a variety of other ways is important. On the data side, that continues to be a huge focus for us. Going back to how do we look at the data piece moving forward, we’re collecting data from all sources. It’s based on everything from transactions to what people’s search patterns are, to what time of day are they doing things, and really trying to personalize that experience reflect.

Voice activation and Connected Intelligence is having a rapid influence on how local businesses attract and retain customers. How is Yelp approaching that technology?

Voice activation is going to evolve over time. As we all know, this stuff doesn’t happen overnight. People are all going to have different preferences of how they access that data. It’s important that we’re providing solutions for every constituency.

There are some folks who want to do it on a desktop. Some want to do it on a phone. Sometimes people want to do it on an Alexa or a Siri or in your car. We’re agnostic in terms of how people get that data. It will change the data and the likelihood of the request, just by the form factor. If you needed to make, potentially, a bunch of different choice … If you needed a quick dinner. “I need 20 minutes, I need a pizza delivered,” it’s, “Order me a pizza from the best pizza place nearby.” That’s a pretty straightforward case. If it’s, “I need a litigation lawyer for a wrongful termination suit,” that’s going to be a lot more of a research that demands greater involved experience.

But we can see it already when someone uses an Alexa or Siri to add themselves to a restaurant’s wait list for brunch.

We’re powering the vast majority of Apple Maps, local locations and review data. We have a bunch of different developers working out there right now on various conversational platforms that we give them our data, and so come up with incredibly cool things. So we’re ready for voice and we’re helping our clients and users get more out of that tool as well.