Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman explained how powerful smartphones and the app explosion can be, as he said the first Yelp app on the iPhone in 2008 fundamentally changed its business.
Prior to that app, users could be directed to Yelp via Google searches or could go directly to the site to learn about the latest restaurant, bars and other venues around them. While there definitely was a strong community, that experience wasn’t as powerful as using Yelp on the go.
The company knew this and even built a WAP site back in 2005 but once Apple opened up its App Store a few years ago, it led to a completely different value proposition for Yelp.
“Once you’ve downloaded that app, you’re in a hardcore Yelp experience,” Stoppelman said at MobileBeat 2011.
The rate of engagement with the Yelp apps are off the charts, Stoppelman said, as users are making a conscious choice to interact with the service. He said that the 4.5 million active app users out there account for more than 30 percent of its search traffic. I know that whenever I get a new phone, Yelp is one of the apps that I can’t live without.
The CEO indicated that mobile will be playing a major role for Yelp as it marches toward an IPO. Unlike Groupon and Zynga, Yelp doesn’t seem like its in a rush to go public, as Stoppelman said the company is content on building a high-quality service for its users whether it’s public or not.
While the Yelp check-in service hasn’t yet caught fire like Foursquare, the CEO sees this as an interesting data point for the larger community. If you know a reviewer has checked in at a restaurant, then you’ll likely put more credibility to that review. We can also look forward to the company using its check-in service to offer more deals for users.