August 29, 2019
Yelp will now provide recommendations that are more customized, based on users’ stated preferences. Yelp head of consumer product Akhil Ramesh noted that it’s the first time that, “two people with the same context searching for the same thing are going to see completely different results.” The Yelp app will now profile each user’s likes and dislikes to enable this to happen. A user, for example, will have the chance to choose dietary restrictions and preferences as well as list hobbies, pets, children and so on.
Wired reports that Yelp has “long given users the ability to filter search results based on dozens of different criteria … [but now] is just taking some of those more personal options and setting them to be the default for all searches.”
Users will still have the ability to filter, but Yelp “places more emphasis on dietary restrictions than other lifestyle factors.” It offers shortcuts to search for options such as a pet-friendly restaurant or “filter instead by factors like distance or highest ratings.” Users can also opt-out entirely of the new personalization features.
Yelp’s customization feature is now available for “roughly half of iOS users today, and the rest will be on-boarded later this fall.” Android users, meanwhile, “will only have access to personalized search results for now, with the rest of the features, such as the customized home page, coming within a year.”
By gaining all this new data from its customers, Yelp — which makes most of its money via advertising — could use it for marketing. Wired notes that, in the past, “some business owners have accused Yelp of forcing them to advertise on its platform or risk dealing with the impact of negative reviews — a charge the company has denied vigorously for years.”
The customization features could also help Yelp stand out from its biggest competitor, Google, which offers a very similar service via Google Maps. Since Google is under scrutiny by regulators for its privacy practices, however, “it might be less likely to start asking users about their dietary restrictions and whether they prefer gender neutral bathrooms (though it might not need to ask, since it already tracks nearly everything you do).”
For users that don’t have dietary restrictions, Yelp’s changes may not be dramatic, but they will “make it slightly easier to find a restaurant you might enjoy.”