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Yelp harnesses AI and LLMs to enhance search, review and hiring experiences

Bynewsmagzines

Apr 25, 2023
Yelp harnesses AI and LLMs to enhance search, review and hiring experiences


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Popular review website Yelp today unveiled a range of new AI-powered updates to its platform designed to improve the user experience.

One feature is “Yelp guaranteed,” a satisfaction program created specifically for home service professionals. Additionally, users will now benefit from an AI-powered search experience that will help match them with relevant local businesses. The platform has also introduced new discovery features for undecided users and now allows users to add videos to their reviews and react to reviews in new ways. Alongside these updates, Yelp has undergone a visual refresh that aims to enhance users’ connections with local businesses in their community. 

Overall, Yelp says it is on a mission to not only become more reliable and user-friendly, but to enable users to make more informed decisions about the businesses they choose to interact with. 

Enhancing search with LLMs and AI

As per Yelp’s VP of consumer product, Akhil Kuduvalli, a new “surprise me” feature was designed to help people overcome analysis paralysis when they’re having a hard time deciding where to eat. Now, instead of endlessly scrolling through the Yelp home feed or search results to find a restaurant, they’ll find the “surprise me” button providing highly-rated restaurant recommendations near them.

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When users click on the button, Yelp generates a unique and highly-rated restaurant recommendation near them. If the first recommendation isn’t to the user’s liking, they can simply click “surprise me again” for a new suggestion. This feature has already been used to suggest more than one million businesses each month.

Another AI-powered feature provides more sophisticated search suggestions that are not bound by location. Yelp can now provide search recommendations based on a user’s search intent, regardless of where they are located. This is particularly helpful for users who are planning future trips or who want to explore businesses outside of their local area, according to the company. By suggesting businesses across the U.S., Yelp aims to streamline the discovery experience for users who have a specific business in mind.

Finally, Yelp has introduced clickable category tags for businesses listed in restaurant, food and nightlife searches. These tags help users refine their searches and connect with the right business by providing more context about the type of establishment they are looking for.

Breadth and depth of content

One of Yelp’s core differentiators, the company says, is the breadth and depth of its content, particularly its reviews.

The company has leveraged AI for years to provide search results, dish recommendations, organize photos of a business and better protect its users. With the recent advancements in Large Language Models (LLMs), Yelp now has an immense opportunity to harness its review content in ways it hasn’t been able to before, the company says.

One of the main challenges in using Yelp or similar platforms is sifting through the vast amount of information to find the specific type of business users are looking for. Yelp has addressed this challenge by using LLMs to understand the nuance in users’ search queries and provide more relevant information from reviews. Specifically, Yelp now shows review snippets under each business listing in search results, providing users with more context about the business and its services. 

Overall, Yelp’s use of AI and LLMs has enhanced the user experience, the company says, by providing more relevant and useful information. By leveraging these technologies, Yelp aims to make it easier for users to find the businesses they are looking for and make informed decisions based on other users’ experiences.

Yelp guaranteed makes hiring home service pros a worry-free experience

As per Ramesh, Yelp’s home services category is one of its fastest-growing businesses. The new Yelp satisfaction guarantee program offers up to $2,500 back should something go wrong during a project. Consumers automatically become enrolled in the program when they hire an eligible business through Yelp’s “request a quote.” Yelp guaranteed is currently available for eligible advertisers with “request a quote” enabled in selected home services categories and locations. Yelp considers various factors to determine business eligibility for the program, the company says.

The program is currently available in San Francisco, New York City, Chicago, Seattle and Washington D.C. for popular home services categories including movers, plumbers, contractors, electricians and landscapers. Consumers can easily identify businesses backed the program by looking for the badge on eligible business pages, in the projects tab or by selecting the yelp guaranteed filter in search on iOS.

Yelp guaranteed will soon be introduced nationwide for additional home services categories, allowing Yelp to gather insights from new markets and continue evolving the program, according to the company. Yelp will also expand the visibility of eligible businesses on more platforms, including Android and the web.

Making Yelp visually appealing

As a part of this facelift, Yelp has introduced new features to enhance user experience when sharing their reviews and engaging with businesses. Users can now include high-resolution videos up to 12 seconds alongside their text review and photos.

To make it easier to write helpful reviews, interactive review topics like “food,” “service” and “ambiance” are available. Yelp also added new expressive reactions, including “helpful,” “thanks,” “love this” and “oh no,” to appreciate Yelpers for their reviews.

Moreover, Yelp has rolled out several changes to make the platform more visual. Business owners can now upload videos to their connect posts, and users can easily navigate through a new navigation bar on restaurant, food, and nightlife business pages.

“We’re always looking for more ways to bring value and delight to our users,” said Ramesh. “By introducing more visual and engaging ways for our users to share new insights on local businesses, we envision creating more opportunities to surface video content prominently throughout the Yelp platform — from our homepage to the search experience and more. With our new expressive review reactions, we’re already seeing users react over six times more to reviews than with our previous reactions.”

AI-driven photo categories

Yelp also introduced AI-driven photo categories for food and nightlife businesses and a new sort feature that allows users to quickly see recently added photos. Additionally, the refreshed home feed now surfaces more helpful information about local businesses near the user. To make logging in more convenient, Yelp has introduced a passwordless login experience that allows users to sign in with a unique email link that seamlessly and securely authenticates with just one click.

“In the future, we’re planning to leverage AI and LLMs throughout the search and discovery experience, as well as continue to invest in solutions that maintain content integrity and bolster consumer trust,” said Ramesh. “We also continue to see a lot of potential in the home and local services space and are focused on continuing to differentiate that experience on Yelp to help consumers get their projects done with a high degree of confidence while driving high quality leads to businesses.”

Ramesh added: “We’re focused and excited about building new features that map to our mission of connecting consumers with great local businesses.”

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