who’s winning mobile location-based for marketers?

For business travelers, it’s easy to see why mobile access to discovery tools like Google Places, Yelp and Foursquare is so critical.
Determining where to go to get coffee, lunch, printing help, dinner, drinks, etc., often happens at the last minute.
What about non-business travelers?
Yes, we all have our favorite places to eat, preferred dry cleaners, dentists, doctors, and so on. But how do we know we are finding the best places? Or what if our dentist moves? Or our dry cleaner continually over starches our shirts? What about life changes that might mandate a new day care? Or a nursing home?
Most of us rely on word-of-mouth or some heavy Google searches.
Word-of-mouth still works, but it relies on our power of recall (most of us lose 80% of what we learned within 24 hours). It also means that unless you have a network of people that stay current on local businesses, the place that was good a year ago may not still be all it was.
That brings us back to discovery tools like Google Places, Yelp and Foursquare. For the sake of argument, let’s say that Google Places has won the battle for scale and adoption by the sheer fact that hundreds of millions of people use Google to search both via mobile and desktop. That is helped by the fact that Google has done such a good job at surfacing structured data (like phone numbers, directions, hours, etc.) up to the results page. But…
The strength of Yelp and Foursquare is that what they lack in breadth they more than make up for in depth.
So, if we can assume that most companies have some involvement with Google (SEM, SEO, Places), the question this begs of businesses with limited resources is whether to commit to Yelp or Foursquare. Below, I’ve spelled out some pros and cons for both.


  • Pros:
    • Over 53 million reviews
    • 120 million monthly unique visitors
    • Appears on first page search results for any searches — general or specific
    • Employs a time tested approach (reviews) from patrons who are passionate enough to take the time to write a paragraph or two about the business
    • Good mobile web and app experience
  • Cons:
    • Has been accused of pressuring businesses into using their service or risk being black balled
    • Relies on long form reviews, which limits the number of users that are willing to submit
    • Has limited the power of “strong ties” among users because they aren’t strongly encouraged to connect to one another


  • Pros:
    • 45 million users
    • One of the largest databases of user generated geolocation in the world
    • Encourages users to leave “tips” or single phrase/sentence reviews
    • Strong mobile web and app experience
    • Because users are encouraged to connect with one another, there are strong ties when users search for businesses, e.g., “Aaron has been here three times and left one tip”
    • Allows for smart advertising
    • Powerful discrete controls (distance, specials, highest rated, relevance by time of day, etc.) allow for discovery of the right local businesses
    • For those that connect with friends, a good way to accelerate serendipitous meetings — or discovery of new places to try
  • Cons:
    • Fighting off perception of “geek” tool based on its original focus on badges, mayorships and gamification
    • Does not come up regularly in organic search
    • Hard to filter “tips” in venues with more than 10-15
    • Lack of long form, well thought out review content

At first blush, it might appear that Foursquare is the winner due to the number of pros. Or, you could determine “game over” by Yelp’s sheer number of users and the fact that it comes up in organic search (and usually in the first page of results). However, it’s not that cut and dried. The real winner is determined by first figuring out what kind of customers you as a business owner are trying to attract.
For businesses that have younger, more social customers, Foursquare is an easy choice. Foursquare would also do itself a favor by pushing harder into the regular business traveler market (their tool is one of the best in the business for regular visitors to other cities). Foursquare is also a shoo-in for those businesses that seek to attract tastemakers or those that are looking for the trendiest places.
Yelp has been around longer and has a more established base of reviewers. Yelp has also won the war of selling small- and medium-sized businesses on the value of courting customer reviews. Yelp has also done a better job diversifying outside of the bar/restaurant/hotel industry. In fact, more than two-thirds of their reviews are for non food and beverage establishments. Last but not least, Yelp is still more of a household name — so, for businesses whose customers skew older and/or are more inclined to research their choices ahead of time, Yelp is the right choice.
In a perfect world, businesses support both Yelp and Foursquare; but resources aren’t infinite, and it makes sense to do one channel well versus two poorly. So, who you got?

Please send us a message and let us know what you think! info@bizztechnology.today