Virtual Graffiti: How Much Does Yelp Matter?

May 10, 2018
Abhinav Kapur

How much does Yelp matter?

Graffiti has always fascinated us here at Bikky. It’s loud, public, and – when it comes to its benefits – very much a matter of opinion.

Local businesses view Yelp much the same way. Reviews are permanent public signals to future customers about your brand. However, unlike graffiti, they can’t be washed away, no matter how riled up the community gets.

On the flip side, this social impact translates into real, tangible value; a Harvard Business School study estimates that a one-star increase in Yelp rating leads to a 5-9 percent increase in revenue. More importantly, this effect is driven by independent restaurant ratings; chain restaurants are immune, but for smaller businesses, Yelp’s virtual graffiti can be a crucial ingredient in the recipe for success.

So how do you maintain a channel that’s responsible for reputation management, customer service, and new customer acquisition?

Meet your customers online

The short answer is vigilantly. It’s not enough anymore to turn out a good product, create a welcoming in-store experience, and rely on word of mouth to bring new patrons through the doors.

Instead, these aspects are now the foundation of a sound social engagement strategy, a powerful tool in building a welcoming brand and attracting customers. Today, 90% of customers reading reviews before visiting a business. It’s more important than ever to be where they are. This means either directly engaging them, or at least finding ways to consistently manage your online reputation.

The very best businesses do this by taking ownership of Yelp reviews (both positive and negative). They use them as a chance to better understand their customers, improve their business, and cultivate lifetime customer relationships (what’s that old saying about the customer being right?).

By incorporating online brand reputation and customer service into their daily operations, they signal to customers that their opinion matters.

Ask current customers to act as brand ambassadors

This form of reputation management is more overlooked. Too often, businesses get caught being reactive, simply responding to reviews (especially the negative ones), doing damage limitation, and asking for a second chance.

But what about customers that already love your brand and don’t need a second chance? At Bikky, we’ve discovered that repeat customers are anywhere from 53 to 76% of a restaurant’s delivery customer base. That means you could already have a loyal following at your fingertips, waiting to publicly advocate on your behalf.

The key is to just ask. Not everyone will respond, but some will appreciate your willingness to value their opinion. Done consistently, this practice could be enough to gain you that extra star (or maintain your stellar rating) and the associated revenue boost.

Embrace Yelp as a tool, not as a necessary evil

For many businesses, Yelp seems like a double-edged sword.

For better or worse, every customer interaction is a reviewable event, a potential signal to future patrons about your brand. Yelp reviews also take up prime real estate on Google, and is one of the first things a potential customer sees when you pop up in their search results. From both a financial and social standpoint, there’s no escaping its importance.

The key though is to view it as just another tool in engaging your customers and improving your business. You can treat it as an extension of your brand by including updated contact information, photos of your staff or food, and direct promotions. All of these tactics signal to prospective customers that you're willing to meet them where they are to gain their business.

Ultimately, Yelp is a digital suggestion box where customers leave feedback on your performance. Bad reviews always sting, but it's important to take each one as it comes. This way, you can keep customers engaged and build a brand that values outside feedback.

This proactive approach to social engagement could be the deciding factor the next time a new customer puts your name in the search box.