As businesses struggle to reinvent themselves in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Yelp is launching new features to help highlight these changes.
For one thing, it’s adding a new information category called virtual service offerings, which will allow businesses to showcase the fact that they’re providing things like virtual consultations, classes, tours and performances. Then anyone browsing Yelp can search for those categories.
The company said businesses are already starting to introduce virtual services to their profiles, particularly in the categories of home services, fitness, gyms, health and real estate. And Yelp plans to create new Collections that highlight businesses that are still open and providing these services.
In an email, Yelp’s head of consumer product Akhil Kuduvalli told me:
With these new product updates, businesses of all types that are adapting and changing the way they operate will be able to better connect with their customers and potentially find new ones. Once business owners update their virtual service offerings on their Yelp for Business profiles, we will surface those updates to consumers through new call-to-action buttons, by updating the home screen and search results with links to groups of businesses offering these new virtual services, as well as surfacing them in other formats like Collections.
Yelp said it will soon add the ability for restaurants to identify the fact that they offer curbside pickup as well. (Apparently restaurants are already using existing features to adapt — for example, Chili’s is using the Waitlist feature to manage diners making curbside pickups.)
Yelp (which has had to make cuts of its own in response to the pandemic) has also introduced a customized banner that it said has been used by nearly 224,000 businesses to post updates to their profiles. Now the banner is available to all businesses on Yelp for free.
Lastly, the company said it’s made its Connect feature for posting updates free to eligible local businesses as part of its $25 million relief efforts, and it’s introduced new Highlights that allow businesses to put relevant offerings — like gift cards and delivery during the pandemic — directly into their Yelp search results.
In a blog post announcing the changes, Kuduvalli wrote:
As government leaders across the country begin to map out plans for reopening local economies, we anticipate that the needs of consumers and businesses will gradually evolve. We’re dedicated to listening to our community of local businesses and users as they continue to adapt, and will continue to create new ways to help them stay connected and safe during this unprecedented time.