Yelp introduces ‘Connect’ and new Waitlist features for restaurants
Connect is a publishing tool not unlike Google Posts, but with differences.
Yelp has been busy lately. The company is creating new products for business owners, most of them subscription-based, and new features for consumers. Most recently Yelp introduced personalization and said it was “the beginning of major product changes the company is undertaking to significantly evolve and improve the consumer experience.”
Today the company is launching new restaurant-related tools for both owners and consumers: Yelp Connect and new features for Yelp Waitlist. Connect is designed to help restaurants on Yelp communicate menu updates, specials, events and offers with diners who’ve “previously expressed interest in their business via Yelp.” The Waitlist upgrades are intended to help restaurants manage customer flow.
A social publishing tool. Yelp Connect is a publishing tool, not unlike Google Posts, that restaurants can use (from their Yelp business pages) to push out content. Anyone who visits the restaurant’s page will be able to see the posts. It also has some other elements, however.
Yelp app users will also see these posts, which can be scheduled by the business owner, on their home screens. Yelp is also going to push out “a personalized weekly email from restaurants we know they’re interested in.” This suggests Yelp will be building the email list on behalf of the restaurant based on signals such as prior use of Yelp Waitlist, Yelp Reservations or having bookmarked a restaurant.
Yelp says Connect will help restaurants target consumers more strategically based on prior expression of intent. It will cost $199 monthly but Yelp is discounting it for early adopters ($99 per month) for a limited time.
Getting more SaaSy. The Yelp Waitlist upgrades are “predictive wait time” and “notify me.” The former will show live wait times, “based on actual data from the restaurants, not location data.” Yelp says that machine learning has improved the accuracy of estimates. Notify Me is a reminder function that will enable customers to pick a time to visit a restaurant and then receive a notification prior to that desired eating time to join the Yelp Waitlist.
Waitlist is also promoted as a way to help with restaurant customer management. Predictive Wait Time specifically is intended to help bring customers in during slower times, which should also create a better experience for the customer as well.
With its latest product announcements, Yelp is pursuing a dual strategy of trying to add more differentiated experiences and functions for consumers while delivering back-office tools to business owners to help them operationally. And these are all subscription-based, rather than advertising products. Assuming they deliver, that’s better for business owners and more lucrative for Yelp, with less churn.
Why we should care. Yelp is really Google’s only remaining “horizontal” competitor in local search (we can debate whether Facebook qualifies). But the company faces increasing pressure from Google and GMB’s growing list of features. It’s really in an innovate or (eventually) die position.
Yelp is responding by trying to provide utility to both consumers and business owners with these new product launches and make them different from what Google is doing, which is partly the case. And as diversifies revenue sources away from advertising it may win more favor with business owners, who may see its paid products more as SaaS tools to help them run their businesses and less like ads, which can seem more optional.