Yelp entered the location-based check-in game nearly a year ago, following in the footsteps of other services like Foursquare and Gowalla. Over the summer, the company added badges and mayor-like features and we wrote that the move clearly placed Yelp "in direct competition with the likes of Foursquare."Local search and business review service
Now, Yelp is introducing Check-in Offers later this month, a feature that will give users real-life discounts and deals when they check-in to locations and it appears the company is following in Foursquares' footsteps again - but is it?
A primary driving force for Foursquare users this whole time has been game mechanics - points for check-ins, badges, mayorships to flaunt just how much you go to the local dive bar - and real-life deals were added later as a way to both monetize and keep users checking in. Why continue checking in if all you get is a virtual badge, right?
blog post announcing the feature, "Yelp is a transactional website, and upcoming features like Check-in Offers help to further bridge online discovery and offline buying. In other words no one types "Sushi" near "Los Angeles" for fun."Yelp, on the other hand, has long been in the game of local business reviews by community members. That's been its primary product all along. Check-ins, for Yelp, were more of a community building feature, something to keep users interested and interacting. As the company writes in yesterday's
So, sure, Yelp may be literally following in Foursquare's footsteps with a similar feature, but it means something completely different in this context. Foursquare may offer "tips", but those same tips are the reviews at the very core of Yelp and it's why users go there.
We got a chance to speak with Stephanie Ichinose, the senior director of communications at Yelp, and she told us that mobile accounted for around 30% of Yelp's searches and that the site had just hit 14 million reviews over the weekend.
"It's an obvious and pretty natural extension," said Ichinose. "It absolutely makes sense for us to layer it in as a way business owners can communicate with their users."
And that might be the key difference here - at the heart of Yelp are businesses and those 14 million user-submitted reviews of those businesses. At the heart of Foursquare are locations of many kinds - businesses, hangout spots, random peoples' houses - some with reviews (or "tips") and some without.
Would these sorts of check-in deals bring you over from Foursquare to Yelp? Or is the user experience with Foursquare strong enough to keep you going, with the occasional deal or mayoral discount? Let us know if you think Yelp's implementation makes more sense or if it just works better with Foursquare in the comments below.