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Yelp’s SVP and Head of GTM, National discusses Yelp Audiences, a new advertising platform reaching high-intent audiences off Yelp

Today, Yelp announced Yelp Audiences, a new way to help national and regional advertisers connect with consumers across the web based on Yelp search activity. Yelp Audiences offers an opportunity for location-based, direct-to-consumer, consumer packaged goods, and online advertisers to reach Yelp’s high-intent audience at all stages of the buying cycle.

We sat down with Tom Foran, our SVP and Head of GTM, National, to learn more about Yelp’s new advertising platform.

Give us the elevator pitch on Yelp Audiences.

Tom: Yelp has this really unique audience of down-funnel, high purchase intent consumers. To date, we have allowed brands to access them through a suite of advertising products on Yelp’s apps and websites. With Yelp Audiences we’re able to extend the ability to reach that highly desired audience off of the Yelp platform, enabling a brand to use their own creative and tracking to accomplish their marketing goals. The combination of the native Yelp ad products and this new reach is what most excites us about Yelp Audiences.

Why is Yelp launching this platform?

Tom: In the past, we’ve seen great results from our Yelp advertising products for major brands. That said, we’ve also seen demand from the marketplace to do more than what our existing products could offer. With Yelp Audiences, we’re trying to meet the market demand and expand the value of the Yelp audience outside of Yelp owned and operated platforms, across the web, mobile and connected TV.

Additionally, this creates an opportunity for non-location based brands to reach Yelp’s high-intent audience. Prior to this release, non-location based brands haven’t been able to leverage Yelp because, since the beginning, we’ve been focused on driving consumers to businesses with physical locations or those that provide local services. Now with Yelp Audiences, advertisers in a variety of verticals — including direct-to-consumer, credit card companies, beverage businesses, or consumer packaged goods companies — can engage Yelp’s users in a way they haven’t previously been able to on Yelp.

Yelp is a down-funnel platform but the launch of Yelp Audiences enables brands to reach this highly attractive audience for awareness campaigns, especially through mediums like connected TV.

How exactly does Yelp Audiences work?

Tom: Yelp Audiences allows brand marketers to reach consumers off of the Yelp platform based on behaviors and purchasing intent displayed on Yelp. We can segment our audience based on things like search terms, category interest and leads. From there, a brand can use Yelp Audiences to reach that audience with their own creative campaign across the web and on connected TV. 

Let’s look at a few hypothetical examples to bring it to life…

You are craving coffee (because, frankly, who isn’t in desperate need of coffee these days), so to satisfy that craving, you turn to Yelp to find the nearest coffee place. But, for a brand like Starbucks, as an example, that also sells retail cold brew, you are a very valuable customer. Yelp Audiences allows Starbucks to reach you off of Yelp with targeted, relevant ads. And, hey, maybe you end up buying Starbucks Cold Brew for your fridge so you don’t have to run out every day.

Now you’re searching for a grooming service because your dog’s hair has gotten a little out of control, and the YouTube videos you tried to watch to teach yourself how to DIY it just aren’t doing the trick. You once again turn to Yelp to find a reliable groomer. Through Yelp Audiences, a brand like BarkBox that wouldn’t appear in Yelp searches because they don’t have a brick and mortar location, can now target consumers that have searched for pet-services with their new subscription-based service off Yelp. 

Our audience intent is what has always driven the success of the business

What, to you, is the most important part of this announcement?

Tom: Yelp’s high-intent audience is incredibly valuable to advertisers — in fact, on average, 90% of people make a purchase within a week after visiting Yelp. Layering that audience on top of inventory is the real opportunity — it’s what enables brands to be more effective and efficient. With Yelp Audiences, brands are able to employ the same creative they use for the majority of their display, awareness and direct response campaigns. It also allows us to look at the consumer from a holistic perspective – creating touch points across their entire journey.

Our audience intent is what has always driven the success of the business and being able to combine these audiences with the massive scale of reaching these consumers off of Yelp provides a valuable opportunity to advertisers – and one that’s already seeing great success.

In May, KitchenAid worked with Yelp to deliver off-platform ads that encourage consumers to eat at women-owned restaurants in their local markets as a part of their “A Woman’s Place” campaign. The overall initiative seeks to empower and elevate women in the culinary profession to the top of the industry and is centered around a documentary short, titled “A Woman’s Place.” The Yelp partnership ran between May 3-31 with a national campaign that leveraged Yelp’s hundreds of thousands of women-owned businesses to show consumers a map of their local spots where they can show support.

KitchenAid recently conducted a study with Kantar* to measure brand lift driven by the Yelp Audiences campaign. Respondents who saw KitchenAid’s Yelp Audiences ads showed a 12 point lift in the perception that “KitchenAid is made for people who love to cook,” which is about a 5X higher lift compared to the industry benchmark for brand attributes.

What’s next for the Yelp National business?

Tom: While we’re always looking at what’s next, we are all very excited about the opportunities that Yelp Audiences has to offer and are continuing to focus on how to innovate the product. 

That said, we are certainly experimenting with new products that allow us to increase consumer touchpoints through our high-intent audience and continue to find ways to brand outside of the traditional location-based footprint.

While I can’t give away too much right now, we’ll definitely have more to share later this year!

*According to a Kantar Brand Lift Insights report conducted in May 2021.