Yelp Donates $25 Million In COVID-19 Relief To Struggling Businesses

The arrival of COVID-19 as a health threat to Americans now requires companies worldwide to adapt on the fly. Yelp on Friday announced a donation of $25 million in relief, primarily focused on supporting independent local restaurants and nightlife businesses.

The relief comes in the form of $100 in free search advertising per company and other types of waived advertising fees, products and services between March 16 and 31 as companies begin offering free deliveries, pick-up in parking lots, and free streaming services to offset declines.  

For example, restaurants and nightlife businesses that remain open will receive free access to Yelp page upgrades such as Business Highlights and Call To Action, as well as Connect, to help them communicate timely information to their customers.

The company also plans to offer support for independent local advertisers in other categories that are struggling to pay their bills during this difficult time. 

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Restaurants will receive three months of free access to Yelp Reservations and Waitlist for restaurant clients that offer delivery or takeout.

Eligibility requires companies to have purchased a Yelp Ads program directly from Yelp and the active campaigns as of March 19, 2020.

In addition to financial support, Yelp released data that reflects an increase or decline of interest specific categories. Carl Bialik, Yelp data science editor, defines "interest" described in the data as an “aggregate measure of actions consumers take indicating an interest in businesses in a certain category.” It’s the daily consumer interest as shown by the actions people take to connect with businesses on Yelp, such as viewing their business page or posting reviews, he said.

In many U.S. states, delivery and takeout services have replaced dining in at restaurants. As individual states begin setting mandates for the temporary closure of dining-in restaurants, from Manhattan to Los Angeles, U.S. consumers' interest to visit these locations continues to fall.

The bigger the outbreak in certain states, the bigger the impact. Yahoo’s numbers pulled and analyzed between March 18 and 11, compared with a week earlier, estimate that U.S. consumer “interest” in restaurants fell by 54% and nightlife fell by 69%. Interest in French restaurants fell by 47%, cafes by 66%, and wineries by 44%. Interest in breweries fell by 61%. Interest in bridal stores fell 53%, and in gelato shops by 39%.

The good news points to an increase in U.S. consumer interest at pizzerias by 44%; fast food, 64%; fruits and veggies shops, 102%; and grocery stores, 160%.

Zoom video conferencing has become a major tool not only for collaboration and to connecting business associates at search agencies like Conductor, but gatherings for writers’ groups and book clubs to discuss their weekly or monthly reads.

Home fitness equipment stores and parks that provide people with ways to exercise without close, indoor contact with large groups of people are seeing increased consumer interest, up 344% and 53%, respectively.

Yelps numbers show a decline in fitness workouts such as Yoga, down 38% and martial arts at 33%, but this will change as groups figure out how to conduct these sessions online -- like Planet Fitness, which now holds free 30-minute sessions online on its Facebook page at 7 p.m. ET and on its YouTube channel.

A focus on survival and the uncertainty of what’s to come is spurring an interest in buying water at 166% and guns at 360%.

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