VIDEO: Yelp's mobile message for Sensis

Yelp's Jeremy Stoppelman is a digital veteran, but it's mobile he's betting on for future growth.

Yelp chief executive officer Jeremy Stoppelman wouldn’t be drawn on whether his deal with Sensis is worth more to Sensis than Yelp when we sat down with him this week to discuss the group’s local launch.

Yelp is in a quiet period after filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission for a public listing that could raise $US100 million.

It’s clear Yelp’s relationship with Sensis is still in the honeymoon phase. But Stoppelman did hint at the future for Sensis if it doesn’t embrace mobile reviews.

“If you don’t have a presence on mobile and you’re in the local search directory business you’re going to be lost in a few years from now because everyone’s going to be searching on the mobile space,” says Stoppelman.

“What we’re seeing is actually a migration from internet desktop to mobile, so it’s very important for our business and we’re certainly paying a lot of attention as that transition happens.”

Launched in 2008, Yelp’s Apple store app is currently the 15th most downloaded app of all time, and its performance on Android devices isn’t far behind.

Connecting the dots 

Sensis moved to offer its first app in 2009 and extended that to the iPad this year, but it has yet to connect the dots between location based data, reviews and offers. It will have to do this if it is to truly leverage its partnership with Yelp.

Meanwhile, Yelp is watching the deals and offers market closely, particularly given Google’s purchase of Yelp competitor Zagat, and its growing Offers business.

“We really like the idea of deals especially when it closes a transaction online to be completed offline,” says Stoppelman.

“That really is the opportunity we’re focused on, so if you’re looking for a nail salon lets say and you can actually purchase an offer on your phone right there, and then walk in the door an hour later that’s fantastic. The business owner just closed an offer right there when you were thinking about it and then you got a great deal.”

Stoppelman is acutely aware of the flighty nature of daily deals customers however, which is why he’s focused on building a community around the reviews business.

On the daily deals market he says: “Consumers actually don’t care about the local brand they don’t care so much about who is sending them the deal which is why the space is so competitive.

“If you get a compelling deal in your in box you don’t care if it’s brand A brand B brand C that’s sent it to you, you just want the deal, so that means it’s hard to build a sustainable business around that because it really isn’t a moat, it’s just about who is going to get the deal and deliver it to the customer.”

Stoppelman is one of the many entrepreneurial alumni of PayPal, and he’s lived through the booms and busts of the internet.

Paul Wallbank yesterday argued Yelp’s lack of profitability and late arrival in the Australian market will not help Sensis. But he did point to the necessity of a “digital mindset”, which has been missing from Sensis.

There’s little doubt Stoppelman “thinks digital”. Sensis will be hoping it rubs off.

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