Miriam Warren of Yelp

Malaysia is Asia's true melting pot --- an exotic hot spot of ethnicity, culture and religion. With a 30-million strong population and over 40 million mobile devices in use, it's no wonder online review website Yelp.com decided to pick Malaysia as their next Southeast Asian conquest.

Yelp logo

As a quick backgrounder, Yelp comprises a website and mobile app that help connect people to local businesses. Established in 2004, Yelp has since spread its wings to over 31 countries including Malaysia.

Yelp covers local businesses --- everything from restaurants, 'mamak stalls', shopping malls, hotels, your favourite nasi lemak joint, dentists, hair salons and so much more.

US-based Yelp averaged approximately 135 million monthly unique visitors in Q4 2014 alone (global). 'Yelpers' or the Yelp community have written over 71 million local reviews.

Yelp uses an automated recommendation engine to present the most reliable and helpful reviews to Yelp users. The engine uses various measure of quality, reliability and activity on Yelp.

Reviews are user submitted, and can never be changed or moved. Fundamentally, a one-to-five star rating system is used.

Miriam Warren of Yelp

So why Malaysia? According to Yelp Inc vice president for new markets Miriam Warren, it was Malaysia's diversity and highly-connected citizens that was the main driver.

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It did take three years before it reached Malaysian shores, after neighbouring Singapore though.

Warren explained that historically, they only go into two to five markets a year.

In Asia, Yelp also operates in Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Yelp.my

In terms of business model, Yelp makes money buy selling ads to local businesses. These are clearly labeled "Yelp Ads" around the website.

In an Asia-region perspective, Warren also said that the focus will be on content generation and community development, and not monetisation. Monetisation will come at some point in the future.

Yelp's immediate plans for Malaysia is to hire a local community manager who will handle all aspects of Yelp's brand presence, engagement and community development.

You can access Yelp via iPhone, Android and via web at Yelp.my If you're a business owner or manager, you can create a free account and post photos and communicate with your customers.

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