Yelp Adds CRM Tools for Merchants

In March last year I had a conversation with Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman about communication between consumers and businesses on Yelp. It was clear at that time that Yelp was starting to think about interesting new products and services targeting businesses beyond advertising:

Yelp is thinking in extremely creative ways about how to facilitate communication between local businesses and their existing and potential customers. In this way the site becomes far more than a way to deliver clicks/CPM views/leads to local businesses. It effectively becomes a CRM platform, in addition to a consumer destination.

In that spirit Yelp has just added new tools grouped together as “Yelp for Business.” This was also apparently motivated in part by requests from business owners.

Yelp for Business

The new system allows business owners to:

  • See analytics that offer page views and traffic to their profiles (in the current month and historically)
  • Update and enhance their business information, including hours, etc. (which will become the basis for new consumer tools and filters)
  • Receive email alerts when new reviews come in (reputation management)
  • Send messages to consumers that have reviewed their business (thanking or trying to “make good”)

There’s also best practices information about engaging the community in a new Business Owner’s Guide.

Originally, to communicate with “Yelpers,” businesses had to become members of the consumer community. This is both unlikely and awkward. Yelp for Business streamlines that process — owners no longer need to become members of the community — and makes it much easier for merchants to reach out to both fans and foes alike on Yelp.

I asked Stoppelman about the messaging feature, which happens entirely behind the scenes and isn’t published to the broader community. Stoppelman thought this approach was better than allowing businesses to respond publicly on the website. The stated reason was that businesses are often defensive and in a position of having to rebut critical reviews. The “behind the scenes” messaging approach enables businesses to communicate individually with reviewers in a more tailored and specific way.

Businesses cannot “spam” reviewers; they get to send a single message via the Yelp site. No email addresses are exposed. If the reviewer responds to that message, owners can reply again. But businesses cannot repeatedly contact reviewers. Stoppelman and I discussed some interesting extensions of this capability.

Yelp has become, in certain US markets, a powerful lead generator for local businesses. I told Stoppelman that my wife came home from a hair salon with a sheet of paper entitled “How to Write a Review on Yelp.” It was a step-by-step guide to posting a review. That anecdote reflected back to me how seriously some business owners are now taking this UGC phenomenon.

On balance, however, it appears that merchants have a largely positive attitude about reviews. The following is from an SMB survey conducted by Opus Research and AllBusiness.com in August, 2007:

Attitude of SMBs toward user reviews

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Silicon Alley Insider estimates that Yelp is worth $225 million and change.

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7 Responses to “Yelp Adds CRM Tools for Merchants”

  1. Colin Bruce Says:

    At http://www.bview.co.uk we have offered these features from launch as it seemed the logical thing to do to allow businesses to engage reviewers.

    One thing we did that was different: businesses are automatically part of the community and can submit reviews on behalf of their own business. As ~60% of UK business is B2B (and 40% in B2C) this should result in more engagement all round.

    I think the success of Yell is summarised in your hairdressing anecdote and will only get bigger on both sides of the Atlantic.

  2. Will Scott Says:

    Wow Greg,

    That’s a great step forward. I know a lot of local merchants have felt like Yelp is this freight train careening out of control. Is there any indication what the business model is?

    What would be really exciting, and this may be an idea for later versions would be integration to SugarCRM, SalesForce and the Google domain tools.

    Really though, as a first step to engage the merchant community this is a great response. Given how strong a site like Yelp is relative to a company’s home page it’s critical the merchant be part of the dialogue.

  3. Greg Sterling Says:

    There’s no charge for these services but may be a premium model down the line that offers more.

  4. Greg Sterling Says:

    Colin:

    Thanks. Was unaware.

  5. Yelp CEO on ‘Sort by Friends’ « Screenwerk Says:

    [...] CEO on ‘Sort by Friends’ In the context of my discussion of Yelp for Business yesterday I asked Jeremy Stoppelman about the “filter by network” or friends [...]

  6. IHateYelp.com, etc. « Screenwerk Says:

    [...] fairness and discovery for local businesses. On the first point, Yelp, for its part, offers “Yelp for Business” that allows communication between consumer-reviewers and local businesses through the site. [...]

  7. Yelp Adds More Tools for SMBs « Screenwerk Says:

    [...] it’s offering local businesses. Earlier this year, Yelp launched a range of what I called “CRM tools” for local merchants. They’re all accessible from a central business center log [...]

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