EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 274 - November 07, 2010 - ISSN 1528-6703     2 of 7

Guest Column: Yahoo Stores for Retailers of All Sizes

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In today's Guest Column, Scott Smigler of Exclusive Concepts explains how Yahoo Stores can be a viable option for small sellers. Exclusive Concepts is a Yahoo Small Business Partner and has worked with many small merchants to help them grow their business and drive sales to their product listings. Scott reviews some of the advantages offered by Yahoo Stores and how to get started.

What does Yahoo store mean to me? Entrepreneurship. That was the answer I gave during an interview at the Yahoo Merchant Summit earlier this year.

At the Summit my team and I interacted with hundreds of merchants who have grown their businesses on Yahoo's ecommerce platform. Among this group there were merchants who were just starting their businesses, in addition to many merchants with stores doing hundreds of thousands, millions, or tens of millions of dollars per year in revenue.

They all had two things in common: they all started small. And they all were highly motivated entrepreneurs.

In today's article I am going to focus on several issues that may be relevant to online retailers who are in the early phases of their growth, or who primarily sell through online marketplaces like eBay and are considering Yahoo Merchant Solutions.

Knowledge of Web Design
Many of the online retailers I spoke to at the Yahoo Merchant Summit knew nothing about designing or branding a website when they started on the Yahoo platform. Some used Yahoo's design wizard to create a professional looking store quickly and inexpensively, and then upgraded to a custom design as their store grew. Others hired an Authorized Yahoo Small Business Partner at the very beginning to create a high-end design for their store.

Whatever your preference, Yahoo gives you the control and options you'll need to open for business. They have tools you can use that give you a lot of control, even if you are not tech savvy and have a limited budget. Yahoo also offers 24/7 support for free, and has a network of developers who specialize in different aspects of helping online retailers to grow their businesses. These resources are especially useful:

Your Store Forums - This is a web-based community of Yahoo merchants and developer partners who share knowledge, tips, and tricks with each other on a regular basis. It won't take long to realize that many of the people on these forums know a lot and care about helping their fellow entrepreneurs to succeed.

The Source - This is a video blog that is provided to merchants as a free resource by my company, Exclusive Concepts. Each day a different person from our marketing team posts a 5-minute video that teaches a new concept that is important for growing revenues.

Expertise in Marketing and SEO
Many ecommerce platforms require a lot of customization in order to support even beginner-level SEO efforts. Yahoo is different. There are many features built in that will give you an advantage over competitors who are not on Yahoo, which makes it a great option for merchants who understand the importance of SEO, but who are only beginning to learn about it.

Key features include:

  • Spiderability - Each page on your store will be a "static" page that looks like this: store.com/item-name-here.html, rather than a "dynamic" page that looks like this: store.com/item_detail.php?products_id=434&sysID=343rmj. This makes it easier for search engines to spider and index the pages on your site.

  • Dynamic Titles - The title tag, one of the most important on-page SEO elements, will be created automatically on your site pages. With a little customization, you can also create rules that dynamically customize your title tags and meta tags in more advanced ways. If you have thousands of products in your catalog, this will save you a lot of time.

  • Easy Integration with Google Webmaster Tools - Google Webmaster Tools can give you a lot of insight that will help you to improve your search engine rankings. In your Yahoo Store's control panel, you will be able to configure your site to work with Google Webmaster Tools in less than a minute, and without playing with any source code.

For new online merchants who care about SEO, Yahoo Store is the best option I've found in almost 14 years. As you grow into more advanced search engine optimization strategies, Yahoo will grow with you.

Inventory
Yahoo Merchant Solutions has many built-in features that make it easy to manage your inventory, to indicate which items are in or out of stock, and to add or remove products from your store even if you are not very tech savvy.

Valuable features include:

  • Apply changes to many products at once: Group related items into their own tables, in order to manage many items without having to replicate your efforts

  • Use spreadsheets to save time: Add new products, edit existing products, and update your available item quantities using spreadsheets rather than going in to individual items.

  • Visualize changes instantly: Browse a working version of your site in edit mode, and improve copy and how products are merchandised without having to go back and forth between a back-end control panel.

One of the best features of a Yahoo Store is that it fully integrates with Yahoo Web Analytics. You can browse Yahoo Web Analytics to get real-time and historical data about how various products on your site are performing. This can help you prioritize future marketing efforts, and spot bottlenecks in your site that you might not otherwise notice.

Start Small, and Grow
We've worked with thousands of online merchants, and we've seen countless success stories. Some of my favorites are:

  • A niche retailer in the clothing business who, in 10 years, built a network of 30 Yahoo stores doing around $5 million per year in annual revenue.

  • Two web entrepreneurs who partnered together to build a $30 million per year business on Yahoo selling add-ons to car enthusiasts.

  • The owner of a family owned business who, at a time of great financial distress, saved his family business by starting and growing an online store that brought $4 million in new revenue from the Internet in less than 5 years.

One retailer in particular that I'm watching is a gentleman in Florida, who is a first-generation American. Twelve months ago, he and his wife were hit hard by the recession, and he decided to do something about it. After getting laid off, he started a Yahoo Store to sell groceries online that cater to a specific ethnic market. He then started attending OneTwoPunch webinars that I produce monthly with Eric Yonge, and implemented a lot of the free advice that we provided.

In his first few months, he was doing a few hundred dollars of sales each month. A few hundred then became a few thousand. And now, he is doing more than ten thousand dollars per month in sales. He is determined to keep growing, and I am confident that this is only the beginning of something great for him and his family.

Taking the Next Step
If you are thinking about starting an online storefront, or switching from your current platform to one that is more conducive to growth, Yahoo Store could be a great solution for you. There are three plans you can choose from - Starter, Standard, and Professional. All three plans charge a monthly subscription fee and a transaction fee.

Yahoo recommends the Starter plan if you expect to sell less than $18,000/month, and there's an extra fee for using the optional Campaigner email-marketing tools. The Starter plan costs $29.96/month for the first three months, after which it increases to $39.95/month, with a 1.5% transaction fee.

Note from the Editor: Scott said he has a number of coupons good for 2 months free, feel free to contact him (enter "Scott's coupon offer" in the "Here's An Overview of My Needs" field).

About Scott Smigler
Scott Smigler is President of Exclusive Concepts, a Yahoo Small Business Partner that helps online retailers to increase revenue, get smarter and do more with less. Services include advanced search engine optimization services, conversion optimization and more.


About the author:

Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.


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