Is Yelp Local Visits Test a Harbinger of ‘Real World ROI’ for SMBs?

Location intelligence companies such as GroundTruth, PlaceIQ, Placed, UberMedia, Foursquare, NinthDecimal, Factual, Verve, Thinknear, Blis, Cuebiq and others have been providing audience targeting and offline attribution to big agencies and brands for several years.

(This is the kind of material we discuss at The Place Conference [September 12-13 in NYC].)

Facebook and Google also offer offline metrics for larger advertisers. These same O2O capabilities, however, have so far not deeply penetrated into the SMB market, although Zenreach, Square, Empyr are others are operating in this area.

Last year Yelp bought a Canadian company called Turnstyle (now Yelp WiFi), which does something very similar to Zenreach: provides guest WiFi to help SMBs collect email addresses and build marketing lists. The company can also do offline attribution.

That capability is on display in a just-released case study with Jack Astor’s Bar & Grill restaurants. In July of last year Yelp sought to prove the value of its advertising by doing an offline attribution test with the Canadian restaurant chain.

Jack astor's case study

By matching the email addresses of registered Yelp users to guest WiFi users at Jack Astor’s restaurants, within a 30-day window, the company showed that for every $1 spent on Yelp advertising the restaurant chain saw $110 in sales. This calculation was based on average ticket value and table size data provided by Jack Astor’s. Roughly 12,500 Yelp users saw the ads, predominantly on mobile devices and 31 percent of those who did and visited Jack Astor’s were new customers.

Yelp declined to say anything about whether it was going to do more tests or roll out an offline analytics product. There are challenges with the Yelp WiFi approach, namely it requires advertisers to have the company’s WiFi product in their locations. And this was a multi-location brand not a true SMB. But given these ROI metrics, I would expect Yelp to soon do this for more advertisers.

Yelp’s Chris Gilpin, one of Turnstyle’s co-founders, told me on the phone that Jack Astor’s was very excited by the results. One would assume that other local businesses would similarly be excited if they could see directly how their digital marketing efforts were translating into offline sales.

Yelp will present this case study at LSA18, while other speakers at the event will discuss to what extent O2O metrics and data will make their way into the SMB product suite.

But what is your view? Do you think that offline analytics will become common and that SMBs will start expecting that type of reporting from their marketing services providers? Or will O2O attribution be available to only a slice of the SMB market in certain verticals?

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