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Yelp Targets Foursquare, Facebook With Check-In Offers

yelp-logoYelp continues to play catch-up with some of its competition in the local search landscape. The company’s latest move is the announcement of “Check-in Offers.”

If you’re familiar with the premise behind Foursquare’s business users rewarding “mayors” and others who check-in to local businesses, you’ll be familiar with Yelp’s product. The idea is the same: Local businesses using Yelp’s business tools can reward customers when they check-in via Yelp’s mobile apps. Check-in offers is available now in the countries where Yelp offers a business dashboard, namely the US, Canada, UK, and Ireland. Wisely, Yelp is also restricting Check-in Offers from some SMB categories where check-ins aren’t realistic — plumbers, limo drivers, and others who go out to visit customers rather than vice versa.

Yelp is not only competing with Foursquare (and others) in this space, but Facebook also just announced its deals service earlier this month as part of check-ins made via Facebook Places.

But in some ways, Yelp may have a leg up on those sites despite its later entry into the check-in offers space. Yelp is more established than Foursquare with a larger and more active user base. (At our SMX East conference last month, Yelp COO Geoff Donaker reported that Yelp saw about 38 million unique visitors on its web site the previous month. Foursquare reports that it has four million users worldwide.)

Further, 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. Facebook, on the other hand, remains more of a marketing mystery for SMBs in some industries and tends to be seen as a place where the social aspect (friends, games, etc.) takes precedence over any business elements.

The 800-lb. gorilla in all this, of course, is Google. The company has what you might call a mish-mash of local and social products (Google Places, Coupons, Buzz, Latitude), but it has yet to develop a coherent product that directly competes with what Foursquare, Facebook, and now Yelp offer in this area. Give it time.

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