Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Will Accommodation Providers Start To Yelp?

I see that Yelp has this month entered the New Zealand market and we predict that they will cause disruption by soon challenging TripAdvisor as this country's main platform for the public to share online customer reviews.

As accommodation providers struggle to get their head around the realities of crowd-sourced on-line reviews, we predict that Yelp will soon up the ante and intensify the angst shared by some in the accommodation industry.

While TripAdvisor's main focus is providing a platform for travel related reviews such as accommodation and restaurants, Yelp has a more social aspect and a broader focus on local businesses that consumers use day to day such as nightlife, shopping, Beauty, health etc

A growing online consumer base domiciled overseas (particularly in the US) habitually use Yelp for finding and rating local businesses and are increasingly using the platform to find and rate accommodation businesses. Yelp's strategic partnerships with Bing and Apple  have greatly assisted credibility and exponential growth.

The nature of Yelp's reviewers appear to be younger, mobile and inclined to contribute succinct reviews on a frequent basis. From our observations, Yelp reviews are less in-depth compared to TripAdvisor, however the site isn't generally used for whining and customer complaints, with a claimed 80 percent of reviews being considered positive by the reviewer awarding at least 3.5 stars out of 5.

While TripAdvisor is currently the "go-to" website for travel consumers to search and rate accommodation business in New Zealand, judging by Yelp's global popularity (see the graph below), we predict that consumers will soon be influenced by Yelp when considering New Zealand accommdation options.

While Yelp provides a slightly different consumer experience than TripAdvisor, it  can also be influential with consumer buying habits and their methodology can cause controversy amongst business owners:

And like TripAdvisor, Yelp does not provide an opt-out option for businesses that are frequented and reviewed. Reviews on Yelp are "unverified", so proof of purchase is not required for someone to post a review. One contentious point of difference with Yelp is that there doesn't appear to be a mechanism for business owners to reply to reviewers' comments?

While the motel industry has a habit of crying foul and adopting a cloth-cap protectionist stance right from the outset, there needs to be an acceptance that consumer review sites will continue to grow in popularity whatever the platform.

The nature of the beast dictates that successful review sites are self-controlled in an open market where consumers wield a lot of power.

Accommodation providers quickly need to educate themselves about the nuances of new media, accept the inevitability of unsolicited online reviews and ensure that their business listings are presented in the best way possible. Offering consistently good product and excellent customer service also helps;-)

Yelp's announcement that they are entering the New Zealand market was included in a post on their blog on the 1 May:
Yelp Says "Kia Ora" to New Zealand
"New Zealanders are a fearless and fun-loving bunch. NZ was the first modern nation to grant women the vote, a Kiwi was the first to climb Mount Everest, and commercial bungee jumping was invented there, too.

But that’s not all – the nation also boasts an eclectic shopping scene, delicious world-renowned wineries, and buzzing local bars screening the beloved All Blacks’ rugby games.

And now, Kiwis can hop on to their computers and smart phones to share their best kept secrets across the country. Whether you're on the hunt for a hip cafĂ© or a friendly dentist, NZ Yelpers can now share their favourites and discover new ones with each other’s help.
We’re excited to make NZ the 21st nation to join Yelp and give its more than 4.5 million inhabitants a voice.

Log on to Yelp.co.nz or download Yelp’s mobile app to start spreading your wisdom. Businesses can get in on the action, too, at biz.yelp.co.nzby claiming their page for free and building out their profile."

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