Joining rivals large and small, Yelp is now letting local businesses add “check-in offers” to their venues.

Simply, the feature lets businesses incentivize repeat customers by rewarding them with percentages off their purchases, free or fixed-price offers.

Fast Company — which puts the news in the context of “a whole new industry popping up alongside and in between the existing ‘traditional’ retail models” — sees check-ins as a way of “enticing consumers to shop, supply marketing statistical data and also to ‘play’ Yelp.”

Not unlike Foursquare, Facebook, and Groupon — all of which already offer similarly incentivized services — Yelp believes its new program has huge mobile implications.

“Thirty percent of all Yelp search traffic is happening on our mobile apps, which means people are using the Yelp apps to search for businesses around them,” Eric Singley, Yelp’s director of mobile and consumer products, tells Mashable. As such, the apps, “are an opportunity for businesses to get in front of users, and check-in offers can help influence their decisions.”

Unimpressed with Yelp’s new features, Marketing Pilgrim concludes: “This is a pure ‘Look who is doing it too!’ announcement since there is no innovation just participation.”

Likewise, Search Engine Land writes: “Yelp continues to play catch-up with some of its competition in the local search landscape.”

Yet, “In some ways, Yelp may have a leg up on those sites despite its later entry into the check-in offers space,” according to Search Engine Land. “Yelp is more established than Foursquare with a larger and more active user base.”

Indeed, at a conference last month, Yelp COO Geoff Donaker reported that Yelp saw about 38 million unique visitors on its web site the previous month. Foursquare, by contrast, reports that it has four million users worldwide.

Also, Yelp’s potential advantage over Facebook on the business side is that Yelp is already recognized and accepted by many local businesses as a viable and necessary marketing/customer service venue, Search Engine Land adds.

Meanwhile, mobile check-ins have recently grown 50% month over month, according to Yelp. Going forward, notes Mashable, “It should be interesting to track how both business owners and application users respond to the addition of offers.”

SOURCE MediaPost

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