Rating the Brand that Rates Us All: YELP!
Thanks to websites and apps such as YELP, consumers can make the city’s myriad options a bit more digestible, narrowing things down based on user-generated ratings and reviews. With the omnipresent use of mobile devices, consumers can easily peruse reviews on their next outing to guarantee a successful experience. Since people tend to trust other peoples’ endorsements before they trust those of businesses, YELP has been integral in serving as a portal for information on small businesses and service providers since 2004.
The power of consumer reviews is undeniable; positive or negative, what people say about a brand influences others and can greatly impact a brand’s success, and this is no less true for brand YELP. As such, while YELP provides reviews on various other businesses ranging from retailers to doctors to salons, we wondered what it would look like if consumers could rate YELP itself. The BAV framework allows for a brand agnostic evaluation of YELP, meaning it can be compared and contrasted to any other brand in the market, across different industry categories.
On the bright side, YELP is seen as a helpful, innovative resource. The greater American population rates YELP highly on those characteristics and sees the brand growing its popularity as shown by its increase in monthly visitors to as many as 120 million in 2013.
As aforementioned, positive and negative reviews greatly influence business success and, like it or not, YELP reviews matter for consumer esteem and loyalty. But the importance of YELP has created a secondary market of purchasing/selling reviews. While some genuine negative reviews can be trusted and motivational for the business to improve upon its shortcomings, others can be precipitated by competitors or purely hateful customers. To counter that, YELP has developed an automated system that filters out untrustworthy reviews. YELP also prohibits businesses from incentivizing consumers to leave glowing reviews. While these systems have been put in place to protect against abusing the framework, these measures are unpopular among some short-changed owners who do not get adequate credit for honest positive reviews that did not make the cut.
While YELP relies on critical mass of networks and crowd-sourcing to guarantee representative and truthful ratings, giving it a nice 4.5/5 Social score on the BAV attribute scale, its credibility is sometimes called into question by consumers since YELP’s business model relies on business owners’ advertisements. As a result, trusting YELP as an unbiased, independent source has become a challenge for consumers. While BAVC has identified that the importance of trust has increased over time (correlations of Trust to Brand Strength went from 0.29 in 2001 to 0.42 in 2013), Americans think that YELP is only more trustworthy than 55% of all brands, essentially rating it at around a little over a 2.5 rating on a YELP scale.
Although the YELP brand is still growing its Stature, the future potential of the brand has declined since 2010.
While the brand has consistently increased its Knowledge/Awareness and stabilized its Relevance, the brand has lost some of its momentum and Differentiation, the first telltale sign of a brand becoming a commodity. While YELP is still a strong Niche brand, it has lost ground on perceptions of being “Worth More” and “Authentic”. Consumers also question its quality, performance and genuine customers’ interest.
Overall, with higher Strength and lower Stature, YELP’s Brand Asset BAV score is 2 stars. Will YELP bounce back and get enough positive recommendations to increase its score in the future? The company’s expansion to other platforms (allowing users to complete transactions and orders directly from its app) may help revamp its differentiation and increase Relevance. Stay tuned!