- Yelp announced on its blog that it launched Collections, which uses a mix of machine learning, computerized sorting and consumer-created curation to provide personalized recommendations of restaurants, hotels, salons and other nearby services.
- Collections have three categories: weekly user recommendations, suggestions published by Yelp and personal lists that individual users create for themselves. In the post, the company states that the more people use both the mobile app and website, the more accurate their weekly suggestions in "Recommended for You" become.
- Yelp's social media and community managers also gather reviews of local businesses and will eventually create themed Collections for special events, holidays and seasons, per VentureBeat. Yelp's algorithms also publish top 10 lists for cities, determined by a combination of star ratings and the number of reviews and grades.
Yelp's Collections concept takes aim at tamping down growing competition in the space from the likes of Google and Facebook with new functions that make it easier to sort, save and share the company's crowd-sourced reviews. By using AI technology, Yelp has a greater ability to retain information about its users, which is then analyzed to improve future recommendations and deliver users suggestions even more tailored to their individual preferences. But the human element, a key aspect to Yelp's business model, isn't forgotten as manual curation helps improve its top picks across all categories.
This isn't the first time Yelp has employed machine learning technology. The company in 2016 introduced AI-powered image analysis to identify the color, texture and shape of objects in user-submitted photos. The analysis helped to predict attributes like "good with kids" and "ambiance is classy" with 83% accuracy, according to VentureBeat. Yelp also uses machine learning for ad placements, which has since boosted the click-through rate (CTR) for ads by at least 15%.
Meanwhile, Facebook in November ramped up its offering of small-business reviews with Facebook Local, a standalone app that gives users a single place to find restaurants, bars, cafes and nearby activities. It also shows reviews from friends, which enhances the power of word-of-mouth advertising on the social network. Facebook Local is a rebranded and expanded version of Facebook Events, which was launched in 2016, USA Today reported. At the same time, competitor Google has become the fast-growing review site due to its native integration with Android devices. The search giant's new reviews surged 278% in 2016 from the prior year, SEO platform BrightLocal found. Facebook and Google's greater focus on localized information means that Yelp faces more formidable competition.