Yelp has made great strides in extending beyond reviews with reservations, food delivery, requests for quotes and other services. It will now add Yelp Cash Back via a new deal with Empyr, an online-to-offline marketing platform (full disclosure: I’ve had a relationship with Empyr). Cash Back is starting out with 8,000 restaurants and retail merchants.
Yelp is the latest and most significant company to sign with Empyr, which has steadily moved towards a national presence. Empyr has partnered with 1,500 websites and apps, including Microsoft Earn, Living Social Restaurant Plus, Coupons.com and Swagbucks. Yelp Cash Back could provide an especially strong value add for Yelp Eat 24’s 35,000 restaurants in 1,500 cities.
For Empyr, the Yelp deal will more than fill a looming gap for the company. Microsoft is shutting down Earn in March 2017 and the status of Living Social’s Restaurant Plus remains uncertain after its sale in October to Groupon. (Who knows? Groupon’s takeover could end up with the whole company adopting Empyr).
Here’s how Empyr will work with Yelp: Once consumers register a card card on the Empyr platform for a Yelp advertiser, they are automatically recognized and their purchases are tallied on a monthly basis for loyalty points, games like jackpots, and cash back. Merchants only pay when transactions are made. Empyr also provides a good system for soliciting reviews and feedback from consumers. Yelp will further boost usage by advertising the availability and size of discounts, which can be automatically turned on during a slow period, or dayparted, etc.
The Empyr deal goes a long way towards meetings three goals that we articulated last summer:
1. Greater expansion of the local commerce platform to include more partners and categories.
2. More concentrated focus on the categories where it has the most reviews, but fewest sales (i.e. shopping and health).
3. Laser-like focus on gaining more credibility with validated, real reviews from adults.