Yelp Reviews, Biz Orders Via App Gain Traction

During the summer, Yelp introduced a feature long requested by users: the ability to write and post reviews via mobile as well as on the desktop. In addition, the company began allowing people to complete transactions and orders with local businesses directly from its app.

Comments by Yelp executives during the company’s third-quarter conference call this week indicated that those options are already beginning to gain traction. 

Since August, Yelp users have posted an average of about 10,000 mobile reviews a day, or about a quarter of all new reviews, according to company CEO Jeremy Stoppelman. With review-writing added to the Android version of the Yelp app in the last few weeks -- after debuting in iOS -- that proportion could go even higher.

In addition to the quantity of reviews, Stoppelman also suggested that the quality of write-ups was on par with those posted on the desktop. Yelp had previously said it would continue to allow mobile users to post “tips” -- shorter blurbs about venues -- and that reviews deemed too short would be converted to tips to maintain a minimum level of quality.

Still, it’s hard to imagine anyone typing in a review on a smartphone as they might on the desktop or a tablet. But the appetite for reading a lengthy review on a smartphone screen probably isn’t as high as on a larger screen, either.

Stoppelman admitted during the earnings call that it isn’t clear yet what the review-wiring capability will have on overall mobile usage or user growth for Yelp. But he called the step a “net positive,” reasoning that more “high-quality content should lead to more traffic, more distribution.” If nothing else, it help Yelp enhance its advantage over other local discovery services in its depth of review content.

The flip side is that Yelp has long dealt with combating fraudulent reviews on the site. A recent study -- and Yelp itself -- recently indicated that nearly one of out five Yelp reviews are fake and get filtered out. Are phony reviews any less likely to be submitted in mobile? A Yelp spokesperson declined to comment. But if fake postings are any less common in mobile, that could be an added bonus for the company.

In addition to mobile reviews, Yelp said the new ordering service is also showing promise, with about half of the “thousands” of food orders each week so far coming from the mobile side. The company plans to extend that capability beyond restaurants to other retail categories including spas, dentists and home repair.

Jed Williams, vice president, strategic consulting at local media research firm BIA/Kelsey, says it’s not surprising to see the new mobile offerings gain traction quickly because of the high level of search that takes place on Yelp’s mobile properties. The company said about 62% of searches in the third quarter were in mobile, with 46% of local ads being served on devices as well.

“Mobile ordering furthers this engagement by capitalizing on users' intent to act while on the device,” noted Williams. The results Yelp is seeing so far with the new features also keep up the pressure on competitors like Foursquare, which recently rolled out advertising widely for small businesses but has yet to add mobile ordering.


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