Feature Fast-Track: Yelp Rolls Out Virtual-Service Highlights

This is the latest in Localogy’s Skate To Where the Puck is Going series. Running semi-weekly, it examines the moves and motivations of tech giants as leading indicators for where markets are moving. Check out the entire series here, and its origin here

The last 45 days in the tech world can be defined by many words, but the one that perhaps captures the atmosphere best is pivot. Some products are getting shelved while others are fast-tracked. Some are even getting discovered out of urgency and necessity — the silver lining we keep invoking.

The latest company to embody that discovery and accelerated output is Yelp. Yesterday it launched a new set of business profile features that support new-normal SMB dynamics. On the other side of Yelp’s two-sided marketplace, these features also support changing consumer search behavior.

Specifically, Yelp is adding a new information category called “virtual service offerings.” Logically, this gives SMBs a designated area to define the virtual services they’re dynamically rolling out. This mostly caters to things like lessons, performances, yoga classes or other normally in-person activities.

As feature development sometimes goes, Yelp found that businesses were already adding this information using other available fields in their business profiles. The new feature gives virtual service attributes a designated place to live, including prominent profile placement for an indefinite period.

Beyond per-profile prominence (say that three times fast), these listings attributes will be rolled up in geographically-defined Collections that spotlight nearby virtual services in one place. They’ll also be visible in search results, Yelp’s head of consumer product Akhil Kuduvalli told TechCrunch.

We can expect more such moves that apply natively to other business categories. For example, restaurants will be able to amplify the fact that they offer online ordering and curbside pickup. Again, many businesses are already doing this, but the idea is to give them a structured and designated feature.

“As local businesses adapt to current realities, their offerings, hours of operations and ways of doing business are all evolving,” Yelp SVP of Business & Corporate Development Chad Richard told Localogy Insider. “Accordingly, people have an increased need for accurate and up to date information on the businesses in their community. Yelp is incredibly focussed on reflecting this ever-changing reality as we continue to connect people with great local businesses.”

Coming full circle to fast-tracked product cycles, this is one notable component of the “new normal” that we’ll continue to see. Examples from the past few weeks alone include Google and Apple’s contact tracing API, Facebook Messenger’s conferencing feature, and Shopify’s new user-facing app.

Expect more of this — both fast-tracked product cycles and new discoveries. Many of these will even sustain into the gradual return to normal. Meanwhile, Yelp’s latest move follows its $25 million SMB relief and a few other feature updates. We’ll see a lot more of the same from the SMB SaaS universe.

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