On Tuesday Yelp made an announcement that could prove useful to local business owners everywhere. The online guide has turned on a messaging feature that allows Yelp users to contact businesses directly from the Yelp listing.

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It’s a smart move that benefits both small business owners and Yelp. Most interaction today on Yelp is focused on reviews. Once a review is posted, a business has the ability to post a response publicly, or message the user who left the review. In most cases, the catalyst for interaction around this one-way form of communicating was a negative experience. By offering this alternative, asynchronous communication channel (some are referring to Yelp messages as IM, but most instances will involve being communicated a wait time hours/days), Yelp is encouraging more businesses to verify accounts. They are also offering businesses a new interaction channel which can turn positive engagement into real return for the bottom line. Win win.

Time is a commodity, and serviced-based businesses can’t afford to turn attention away from their craft to the time commitments necessary across the web. But while some might hear the Yelp news and immediately think “great…another channel for small businesses to manage,” the truth is likely the opposite. Yelp’s new feature may replace the phone call and allow small businesses and consumers to interact online – which can be more efficient and lower friction.

Here at Signpost, we know the value of Yelp as a destination that helps our merchants (mainly local, service-based business) get discovered, and we are excited about the longer term ramifications of Yelp messaging.

Our ongoing effort at Signpost is to empower small businesses through helping them build lasting customer relationships — whatever the channel might be.

Here is to streamlining the future!