In these unprecedented times as we all do our part to social distance and keep one another safe, we remain committed to our mission – to connect people with great local businesses. Many local businesses, who rely on foot traffic or human contact in their day-to-day operations, have been forced to close their doors, reduce their open hours and change their business models. For example, yoga studios have had to quickly shift to virtual classes, fine dining restaurants are pivoting to takeout and restaurants are selling groceries.
To address this shift, today we’re announcing a series of new product features to better support local businesses that help keep them connected with their customers as they adapt their operational models. In addition, these new features enable consumers to conveniently find businesses that offer the services they need.
Helping Consumers Find Relevant Services while Businesses Adapt
New Virtual Service Offerings will now appear on business pages offering virtual consultations, classes, tours, shows and performances. Through these new searchable attributes, people will be able to easily find new virtual offerings from great local businesses near and far. Businesses that offer a virtual service – such as yoga classes, therapy sessions, tax services, or tutoring sessions – will be able to let people know that they’re still open for business and available to the people that rely on their services. Virtual Service Offerings are now easily available for business owners to activate and consumers can use the new filter or search for it directly to find relevant businesses.
In the past month alone, we’ve seen businesses of all kinds adapting to these new circumstances and are already enabling virtual services. Categories that have seen the greatest adoption to date include home services, fitness, gyms, health, and real estate. Here are a few examples:
To enable restaurants that are pivoting to takeout and delivery, we recently updated our search and home experiences to feature personalized takeout and delivery options for consumers. In a similar vein, businesses will soon be able to indicate that they’re offering curbside pickup – from bookstores and bakeries, to grocery and restaurants. Curbside pickup will also be searchable in the app so consumers can easily find these businesses.
We’ve seen some businesses leverage our existing products in interesting ways as they change how they operate. Some restaurants have even changed how they’re using Yelp Waitlist and Reservations. Specifically, national restaurant chain Chili’s® Grill & Bar has been using Yelp Waitlist to help manage curbside takeout orders to ensure both guests and team members are safely social distancing and adhering to shelter-in-place guidelines. Chili’s used Yelp Waitlist to keep track of guests picking up their curbside orders from their vehicle, even adding “table numbers” on parking spots, to create a seamless curbside experience. As shelter-in-place ordinances ease, they’re continuing to use Yelp Waitlist to simultaneously manage tables inside, as well as curbside orders in their parking lot, allowing guests to safely wait in their cars for their table to be ready.
We’ll also start surfacing Yelp Collections in search results so consumers can easily find thoughtfully curated lists of relevant, open businesses. Soon, when someone searches for a restaurant or fitness class, they’ll be able to uncover a collection of local businesses that meet their current needs. These collections are carefully curated by Yelp’s Community team and will be across more than 100 U.S. metros (from virtual museum tours to cocktail deliveries to virtual workout studios). COVID-19, though challenging for many entrepreneurs, has also created opportunities for some local businesses to reach new customers – near and far – that they may not have been able to before pivoting to remote and virtual offerings.
Helping Businesses and Consumers Stay Connected
Communication is paramount for business owners in these uncertain times. Last month we introduced a new banner alert for business pages – those banners are now customizable so business owners can communicate directly with their customers. Customized banners give businesses a much needed platform to share updates with their customers directly on their Yelp business page. Each business owner can now communicate changes to their hours, what they’re doing in response to COVID-19, where people can find additional information, or any other important information to their customers. Since creating this new banner alert, nearly 224,000 businesses have created customized updates. We’re continuing to improve the banner design, making it even easier to read and ensuring consumers can clearly see if the information included is up to date and accurate.
These customized banners are now available to all businesses on Yelp in any category for free, and can be implemented and updated in the business owner account.
We’re also finding new ways to better surface our existing Connect feature on the home page and in search results, so people can more easily access this direct communication from businesses. Connect, which Yelp initially launched last fall for restaurants, has since rolled out to all categories and was most recently made available as a free tool to eligible local businesses as part of Yelp’s COVID-19 relief during this period. Since then, we’ve seen more than a 200% increase in businesses that are utilizing Connect to communicate and share updates with new and existing customers. Through products like Connect and personalized banners, business owners have more ways than ever to communicate with their customers.
As an extension of our Business Highlights product, we’ve introduced new highlights to help businesses showcase their availability and offerings during COVID-19. Businesses can select two highlights to appear in their Yelp search results listing to help them stand out. Eligible independent local restaurant and nightlife businesses can set up Business Highlights for free as part of Yelp’s relief effort — learn more here.
Businesses will be able to seamlessly implement these products on a new Yelp for Business platform, which we also announced today, to give business owners a way to better understand their business page performance and manage their presence on Yelp. The updated platform is designed to improve the business owner experience with a fresh new user interface that gives business owners more transparency and insight into their Yelp Business Page.
As government leaders across the country begin to map out plans for reopening local economies, we anticipate the needs of consumers and businesses to evolve. We’re dedicated to listening to the needs of our community of local businesses and consumers as they continue to adapt. More soon.