#Guides | 16 min read

How To Create a Review App Like Yelp

Alex Morgunov , Project Lead

45% of customers are likely to check Yelp reviews before visiting a business.

Customers can check reviews almost for everything—from restaurants to auto services. Gaining more and more trust, Yelp helps people find better services and businesses grow. That’s what explains the popularity of Yelp-like apps and the desire to create a review app like Yelp today.

Since the creation of Yelp, many startups have tried to repeat its success. And several appeared to be successful. So how to create a review app like Yelp?

In this article, we will talk about how to create a Yelp-like app, share some tips to build a review platform, and avoid common pitfalls that might appear during the project review application development process.

What Is Yelp?

Yelp is a review and social networking website. The project is crowd-sourced and dedicated to reviews of local businesses such as restaurants, schools, hotels, bars, beauty salons, doctors, and other local businesses. Yelp’s users submit reviews on products and services using a five-star rating system.

The Yelp project was born in late 2004. Back in those days, Yelp’s future CEO Jeremy Stoppelman caught the flu. He had just moved to San Francisco a couple of months ago and needed a recommendation for a doctor, so he tried to find some advice online.

However, he couldn’t find any useful information. But that’s how he got an idea for the project: a website that reviews local businesses and helps people find valuable information about local products and services.

In those days, Jeremy Stoppelman and his colleague Russel Simmons were working for MRL Ventures—a business incubator in San Francisco. They presented the idea of creating a review website to their boss, Max Levchin. The pitch turned out to be successful, and Levchin invested $1 million. That day, Yelp was born.

The Most Interesting Facts About Yelp

Over the years, Yelp gained a reputation as one of the most trusted online resources. As of June 30, 2020, Yelp published its core statistics. Here are the most interesting facts about the service:

Service Sector Reviews Are The Most Popular

Such categories as restaurants, home, and local services, shopping, beauty, and fitness have the biggest number of business reviews—from 11% to 18%. Other categories like health, auto, travel, hotel, entertainment, and nightlife have only 2-9% of reviews.

create a review app like Yelp: popular review sectors

Source: Yelp statistics

Most Yelp Reviews Are 5-Star

50% of the service reviews are 5-star. 18% of reviews are 4-star, 9% are 3-star, and 7% are 2 star. However, negative business reviews comprise 17% of overall website reviews, which is still less than half.

create a review app like Yelp: 5-star review distribution

Source: Yelp statistics

Yelp Has Well-Distributed Demographics

Age of users is almost equally distributed: the 18-34 age group is represented by 29% of users, the 35-54 age group by 37%, and customers aged 55+ aged are among the remaining 33% of users.

At the same time, Yelp customers are well-educated—over 60% of users have at least a college education, and 18% have completed graduate school.

create a review app like Yelp: demographics

Source: Yelp statistics

The “Request a Quote” Button Gives Yelp More Conversions

According to a Yelp report, after the company changed the feature “Message The Business” feature to “Request A Quote” in 2016, they saw message response rates from business owners increase [by] 250%, over half of the messages from potential customers responded to within 24 hours, and messaging in the Home Services category increase 1500%”.

Yelp has 28 million monthly users and $169 million 2020 net revenue.

According to Yelp statistics, the service had 28 million average monthly mobile app unique users and $169 million net revenue in the second quarter of 2020.

create a review app like Yelp: monthly users and net revenue

Source: Yelp statistics

Market of Review Applications and Alternatives of Yelp

Yelp was created back in 2004. Since then, many alternative services have appeared on the market. Among them are such giants as Foursquare, TripAdvisor, MerchantCircle, UrbanSpoon, Zagat, Slant, Angie’s List, OpenTable, and Zomato. Let’s have a look at the most popular competitors of Yelp.

Foursquare

Foursquare is a local search-and-discovery service. This product allows users to find and share personalized recommendations of places to visit.

Foursquare recommends locations that are the closest to customers. To do this, the service uses customers’ geolocation, previous browsing, and check-in history.

Foursquare helps find places for drinking, eating, sightseeing, and shopping—all users need to do is to specify their current location.

create a review app like Yelp: foursquare

TripAdvisor

One of the most popular services for travelers is TripAdvisor. This is an online travel service that provides customers with user-generated content and comparisons.

The service also helps find hotel reservations and bookings for transportation, experiences, and popular travel destinations, including restaurants, nightclubs, theatres, restaurants, and other tourist opportunities.

create a review app like Yelp: tripadvisor

MerchantCircle

MerchantCircle is a service that helps small and mid-size businesses stay in touch and network with each other. The service also connects businesses with their target audience in order to improve communication and create a better service and user experience.

Users are also able to use the service for finding discounts and best offers in their local area, checking reviews, or asking other users for advice.

create a review app like Yelp: merchantcircle

Angie’s List

Angie’s List is a local business directory website that allows users to submit more comprehensive company reviews.

Like Yelp, users can leave reviews. However, at Angie’s List, the feedback is more detailed, as the service asks to specify a company’s grade using an A-to-F report card style. At Angie’s List, there are such review aspects as price, quality, responsiveness, punctuality, and professionalism.

create a review app like Yelp: angie's list

How Does Yelp Make Money: Business Model

Every product needs its business and monetization model to be competitive. Yelp’s business model consists of the core three parts: advertisement, branded and verified profiles, and other paid services.

1. Advertisement

  • Search ads

Businesses have an opportunity to use Yelp as a platform for self-promotion. As a result, their products can be promoted as sponsored search results on the relevant listing pages. 

  • Resale ads

Yelp also generates revenue by reselling some of its advertising products. The company also launched Yelp Ads Certified Partners Program in 2018, so it is now possible for collaborative agencies to manage and sell advertisement campaigns for any business clients.

2. Transaction Fees 

  • Yelp Platform

As far as Yelp’s use of partner integrations goes, users are able to make direct purchases on the Yelp website or app.

  • Yelp Deals

On the Yelp platform, the businesses can use the deals feature. It allows for promoting products as discounted deals.

  • Gift certificates

Yelp allows the use of special gift certificates that businesses can sell to Yelp users. The businesses can choose the price for their certificates at a range of $10 to $500.

3. Branded and Verified Profiles

  • Branded profiles

Yelp allows businesses that need to enhance their listings to get a branded profile with premium Yelp features like preferred videos and images, or by simply updating the company’s information.

  • Enhanced profiles

An enhanced profile option prevents other business’s advertisements from appearing on a particular listing.

4. Other Services

  • Yelp Verified License

Businesses can subscribe to a verified license that appears as a badge on their listing pages. Yelp’s license is meant to show that a particular business is trustworthy, so it becomes easier to attract more customers.

  • Subscription Services

Other subscription services play a minor role in Yelp’s monetization. But they are still part of Yelp’s business model. Yelp’s subscription services include Yelp reservations, Yelp waitlist, and Yelp knowledge.

  • Yelp Reservations

At Yelp, businesses with a prepaid subscription can use a range of online reservations for various venues, restaurants, and bars.

  • Yelp Waitlist

Yelp Waitlist is a management solution for businesses. Using this option, businesses can manage their seating efficiently, while customers can check wait times. The Yelp Waitlist service is also subscription-based.

  • Yelp Knowledge

Yelp Knowledge is a program that offers business owners access to Yelp’s content and historical data for program fees.

Business Model Canvas: Create a Review App

A business model canvas is a graphical representation of the business model and the concept of a particular project.

The business model canvas consists of the key block of any company or organization: value proposition, customer segments, relationships with clients, finance, partnerships, and resources.

Customer Segments Of Yelp

The company has three major customer segments: local businesses, users, and content contributors.

  • Local Businesses – Local businesses are segmented by such factors as location, service type, cuisine, price, operation hours, delivery and takeout, and reservation.
  • Users – Users are segmented and targeted by their demographics, location, and interests.
  • Content contributors – Content contributors are active reviewers who add new reviews.

Value Proposition

As Yelp has three types of users, there are three types of value proposition options for each kind of customer:

  • For local businesses. Yelp provides local businesses with trusted reviews, targeted advertisements, an opportunity to increase their revenue, local business data, analytical tools to monitor traffic, etc.
  • For users. Yelp’s users, in their turn, can browse and check local businesses, find new places, check reviews, save time and money, compare prices, and choose better food delivery or takeout options.
  • For content contributors. By adding new reviews, active customers get an opportunity to communicate with each other and local businesses, engage in social interaction, and support the local businesses community.

Customer Relationships Of Yelp

Yelp is a self-service platform, which means that its users use it any time they need to—for example, by looking for valuable reviews or adding new ones.

Yelp stands for being as transparent as possible when it comes to its reviews, ratings, tips, and photos, ensuring that it is always easily accessible to its customers online.

Core features of Yelp’s customer relationships are:

  • Ability to make transactions. Customers can order food directly through the Yelp platform.
  • Businesses engagement. Businesses can interact with their potential customers, receive and respond to users’ feedback, etc.
  • Communication. The platform establishes transparent communication between local businesses and their potential customers, helping local businesses get a promotion and grow.

Yelp’s Key Partners

  • Content Contributors – Yelp’s key partners include the active reviewers who help to build and grow the platform.
  • Partnerships – Different partnerships help Yelp grow. For example, a partnership with GrubHub helps its customers expand their restaurant selection and delivery options.
  • Extended Partners – These are various kinds of lobbyists, government agencies, electronic payment companies (Visa), and search engine providers (Google).

Yelp’s Key Activities

  • Advertising. Yelp sells sponsored ads in order to increase the company’s revenue.
  • Platform Growth. Yelp’s platform grows due to its business partnerships, customer acquisitions, or new product integrations.

Yelp’s Key Resources

  • Employees. Skilled employees help Yelp add new features, develop new products, and improve an existing mobile and web app service, as well as integrate with partners.
  • High-Quality Content. Good and authentic content helps to create a better product reputation and to attract more users.
  • Brand Reputation. Businesses with a decent reputation can bring more revenue and provide new partnerships.
  • Partnerships. Yelp collaborates with lots of businesses to enhance their marketing and business capabilities.
create a review app like Yelp: business model canvas

Tips: Create a Website Like Yelp

Find Your Niche

Today, Yelp-like apps aren’t new to the global market, so it is always better to beat your core competitors by choosing a narrow niche.

It is always possible to create a review app in specific domains, like healthcare or the legal industry.

Such an app may not be as global as Yelp, but it could have more chances to become successful thanks to its niche focus and smaller market competition.

Determine Your Target Audience

Starting the review application, don’t forget to focus on the app’s target audience.

It is required to study a target audience before the review application development process starts, as that knowledge may be crucial for unique feature integration and marketing strategy.

Discover Your Competitors

Before deciding how to create an app like Yelp, it is crucial to conduct an analysis of direct and indirect competitors in the target market.

Such research would help determine if the service has any market analogs and expose their strengths and weaknesses. After the comparative competitor’s analysis, it would be easier to understand what functionality the product needs and what features are essential for an MVP.

Develop Your UVP

So how does one develop a website like Yelp? Start with developing a UVP. Unique Value Proposition (UVP) helps new products stand out from competitors. When a service offers something that no other competitor has, it expands its market of potential customers. At this point, it’s worth thinking about the very specific benefits your product will bring to users.

Come Up With a Monetization Strategy

Young entrepreneurs are often excited by an idea, but still do not know how exactly to get money from these projects.

It is crucial to develop a monetization model, not only to make sure that projects will bring revenue and be profitable, but to help create the right marketing positioning strategy and successful pitch.

Generally, there are several options for how a review service can be monetized: advertisement, partnerships, subscriptions, or sales. Choose the one that suits your product type the most.

Must-Have Features Of Review Systems Like Yelp

Answering the question about how to make an app like Yelp, one of the vital points to pay attention to the core features. With these features, it is possible to create an MVP and start further product development and growth.

Reviews and Ratings

The review feature allows users to leave feedback after visiting a place. Reviews consist of text description, photos, and a 5-star rate system. The Yelp rating system forms business ratings based on user feedback making it easy to choose the top-rated places.

create a review app like Yelp: reviews and ratings

Yelp reviews

Sign in/Sign up + Social login

This feature allows users to join the service. The regular sign-up feature allows users to join the service manually by providing personal information like name, email, and password. Social login allows users to skip this process by joining the service with their Facebook, Google, or Apple accounts.

create a review app like Yelp: registration and login

Yelp sign-up and social login feature

User Accounts

Apps like Yelp should have at least two types of user accounts: personal and professional. User accounts comprise information about users. Personal accounts also enable access to such sections as newsfeed, friends, reviews, compliments, tips, bookmarks, collections, check-ins, and so on.

create a review app like Yelp: personal user account

Yelp Personal User Account

Business Pages

The business pages consist of the business’s pictures, ratings, reviews, working hours, directions, and contact information. On these pages, personal users can read and add reviews, rate businesses, and get information about amenities and opening hours.

create a review app like Yelp: business pages

Yelp business page

Analytics And Activity Stream

The business account at Yelp allows users to track the activity streams on their business pages and check the overall analytics. This feature is crucial for businesses, as it shares statistical data about their popularity and helps to improve the customer experience.

Location-based Search + Filters

This feature allows Yelp users to search for places that are close to them. An app determines the location and shows the nearest places. The filter option allows users to filter results based on categories like restaurants, home services, auto services, nightlife, dry cleaning, repair, bars, hair salons, gyms, massage, shopping, and others.

create a review app like Yelp: location-based search

Yelp’s location-based search

create a review app like Yelp: filters

Yelp filters

Check-Ins

With Yelp check-ins, users can keep track of the local businesses they visit and inform friends about their visits and reviews. Also, it is possible to share check-ins within Yelp or on Twitter.

create a review app like Yelp: check-ins

Yelp Check-Ins

Notifications

The notifications feature helps inform users about any news, upgrades, changes, new friend requests, or compliments on the platform. This is one channel of communication for Yelp users.

create a review app like Yelp: notifications

Yelp Notifications

Photo/Video Uploading 

When writing a review, people should be able to attach pictures or video files of the places or services they are reviewing. This feature helps make a review more true, valuable, and trusted.

create a review app like Yelp: photo and video uploading

Yelp Attach Photos feature

Tech Stack For Yelp-like App

For development and supporting the Yelp platform, the company uses the so-called LAMP stack. This is an open-source platform that allows for the building of web applications, including:

  • Linux Ubuntu
  • Apache
  • MySQL
  • Python or PHP

However, it is possible to use alternative technologies to build an app like Yelp. At Sloboda Studio, in addition to Python or PHP, we use Ruby on Rails and Java for online platforms. All these technologies can help implement an idea and create a beautiful product. We believe that the choice of technology should depend on the requirements of a particular project.

How Much Does It Cost To Develop a Website Like Yelp?

How much does it cost to create a review app like Yelp? Well, nobody knows the price for a Yelp-like application before a thorough analysis of the particular business idea.

The development cost to build an app like Yelp would depend on the business logic, desired features, deadlines, and technologies. Still, let’s have a look at the rough estimates. A Yelp-like product development process could take:

  • Design – 100 – 400 hours
  • Development – 200 – 800 hours
  • Quality assurance – 100 – 300 hours
  • Project management – 100 – 600 hours

How to create a review app like Yelp? One of the main Yelp app cost factors in software development is actually the type of development: in-house, outsource, or freelance. For instance, the hourly rates in the USA may appear 5-6 times higher than in Ukraine: $30-40 compared to $150-200.

offshore development costs

Here’s a brief comparison of development costs in the main offshore regions:

  • Eastern European Countries. According to Upwork, Eastern European rates vary from $25 to $50/hour.
  • Asian Countries. Indian hourly rates are about $25, according to Clutch. On Upwork, hourly rates for Indian web development also start at $25 per hour.
  • Latin America. According to Clutch, Latin America’s agencies rate hourly from $25 to $100.

Our Experience

Cleaning Marketplace

Cleaning Marketplace is an online marketplace that helps its customers find and book professional cleaners in their local area. The client’s goal was to create a B2C & B2B online cleaning platform in order to digitalize their offline business.

cleaning marketplace

Our solution:

We started the development process with the implementation of registration, search, booking, payment system integration, and notification features. To make the customer experience more convenient, we integrated a matching feature that helps cleaners and customers find each other more easily.

During our work, we also integrated the review and feedback features so that new customers can get a better understanding of cleaners’ professionalism to book a better service.

Luca Labs Expenses

Luca Labs Expenses is an app for the working expenses management of employees who have expenses to be reimbursed by employers. With this app, an employee just takes a receipt photo and sends it to an employer.

luca labs expenses

Our client had an app with an outdated functionality that caused challenges, as it has to work on both iOS and Android.Therefore, Sloboda Studio’s goal was to create an app that would work with an existing API and be easy to maintain.

Our solution:

Working on the Luca Lab Expenses app, we implemented such features as home page, localization, sign up and sign in option, and the ability to take receipt photos and upload them. Also, the system allows the user to add specifications like a merchant profile, amount, currency, category, and comments, providing better communication between employers and employees.

Final Thoughts

So how to create a review app? To create a review app like Yelp, you would need to go through the following steps:

  • Competitive research
  • Creating business and monetization models
  • Determining the core features and estimating required resources
  • Choosing optimal tech solutions and calculating the review application development costs
  • Hiring an in-house or an offshore team
  • Developing an MVP, improving the product, and creating a fully-featured product version

At Sloboda Studio, we have been helping entrepreneurs bring their ideas to life for over 10 years. Would you like to talk about your idea to create a Yelp-like app? Feel free to book a consultation with our team.

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