Yelp, one of the largest and most trafficked brick-and-mortar business directories on the web, hopes to make its mobile apps more personal by better reflecting individual preferences. To this end, it’ll soon allow users to specify things like dietary restrictions, attributes, and interests to tailor the suggestions they see.
When the revamped experience rolls out this week to Yelp users on iOS (with Android soon to follow), they’ll be prompted to fill out an onboarding survey about their lifestyle (for example, whether they’re a car owner, homeowner, parent, or pet owner), accessibility preferences (like gender-neutral restrooms and wheelchair accessibility), favorite foods and activities, and other interests. From that point forward, they’ll get customized search result rankings, shortcuts to filters informed by their likes and dislikes, and personalized highlights that explain why they were matched with a given restaurant, business, or location.
For instance, a parent who’s indicated that they abstain from meat might see kid-friendly hotspots with pescetarian entrées in their next search, while a young adult who says they frequent beauty parlors might see filters and sorting options for hair salons, nail salons, and massages. Predictably, users who checkmark Chinese, Indian, and Mediterranian as their preferred cuisines during the survey will come across more restaurants that correspond to their tastes, while those who say they prefer to hike or visit beaches will see collections of relevant attractions.
Preferences are processed in real time, Yelp says, and reflected through a new heart symbol that will appear on the app’s home screen and search results.
“Yelp has a rich dataset of more than 192 million reviews, hundreds of millions of photos, and other high-quality information from our community of users and business owners,” said Yelp head of consumer product Akhil Ramesh in a statement. “Our AI systems map consumer needs to aspects and values about businesses that make their offerings unique, enabling us to deeply understand and represent your preferences within the right context. Leveraging our unstructured data such as reviews, photos, [and more], our AI systems have been able to meaningfully represent a business’s unique offerings.”
The new personalization options come roughly a year after Yelp rolled out Popular Dishes, an AI-powered feature that spotlights top appetizers, entrees, and desserts. Popular Dishes came hot on the heels of Yelp’s Recommended for You, a collection of recommended places informed by business listings a user recently viewed and the suggestions they received the previous week.
Yelp’s other forays into machine learning include deep learning-powered image analysis that identifies the color, texture, and shape of objects in photos and a custom ads platform that recommends photo and review content to use in banner ads based on its “impactfulness” with users. Yet another is Yelp Collections, which taps a combination of AI, algorithmic sorting, and manual curation to highlight top restaurants, hair salons, hotels, and more in a user’s area.