Without a doubt, Yelp is one of the companies most synonymous with local technology in the public imagination. To close out Street Fight Summit West Wednesday afternoon in Los Angeles, Chad Richard, SVP at Yelp, sat down with David Card, Street Fight’s research director.
Richard and Card delved into Yelp’s use of partnerships to advance its business and maintain a lead position in local.
Yelp has looked to partner with and acquire companies that are already operating in spaces adjacent to its own, Richard said. Companies involved in booking seats at local venues or ordering food are obvious targets.
While competing with Google is no easy task, Yelp has also gone after reservations, partnering with restaurants that want to offer reservations to customers checking them out via Yelp.
“We provide a flexible and friendly opportunity to restaurants that want to offer reservations,” Richard said.
A flexible approach is paramount in a crowded space. “It’s not just us,” he said. “It’s a space that’s ripe for disruption.”
It’s not just businesses that Yelp needs to court through flexible and personalized approaches. As it has expanded, the company has needed to treat each market like a fresh challenge in order to figure out how to keep customers interested.
“We built up one market at a time [through] a community, content-driven model,” Richard said. “We focus on individual markets and we really prove it out.”
It is only after getting a critical mass of businesses in a given market onto the service that Yelp becomes an indispensable tool for customers in that area.
“It’s all about iterating within that market and hitting a saturation point so you can provide value to the consumer.”
Competition in the recommendations and reservations space is good for enterprises and consumers, Richard said.
“I’m really excited about the disruption,” which keeps innovation alive and prevents one group from dominating the industry, he added.
One set of businesses with which Yelp will not be partnering is companies that solicit reviews.
“We’ve made sure there’s an authenticity in Yelp so that people going to the service for reviews can count on it,” Richard said, calling that authenticity “the essence of the business.”
Contending with artificial content is an issue for companies operating across the Internet, Richard said.
“Amazon is battling this with fake product reviews. Facebook has been on the defense about fake news. It’s the same integrity and authenticity issue.”
Joe Zappa is Street Fight’s news editor. Photography by Shana Wittenwyler.