With the aim of helping small businesses get started online, build a thriving company, and grow to be a successful enterprise, Yahoo has relaunched its venerable software-as-a-service (SaaS) ecommerce platform, and, frankly, become significantly more competitive in the modern ecommerce platform market.
The new, redesigned Yahoo Stores should do four things for users, according to Amit Kumar, vice president and head of Yahoo Small Business:
- Make it easier for businesses to get online;
- Provide mobile first ecommerce;
- Help new companies make a first sale sooner;
- Scale with ease to support growing ecommerce businesses.
Yahoo Stores Gets Small Businesses Online Quickly
Every ecommerce platform — particularly a SaaS platform serving the newest, smallest, and, perhaps, least experienced of online sellers — seeks to streamline the steps required to launch a website and start selling.
The new Yahoo Stores goes as far as any to achieve this end, even temporarily acting as a payment gateway, according to Kumar, so that new Internet retailers can start selling before they have an approved merchant account.
Once a store has a sale, the owner or manager will need to set up a merchant account, but until that point, Yahoo has them covered. Shoppers on the fledgling store’s site will be able to place and pay for an order without issue. Kumar even demonstrated this feature for me in real time with a test site he had created in moments.
This automatic payment processing feature removes a significant barrier to getting a store online and helps Yahoo Stores compete with currently available ecommerce platforms that offer similar instant payment acceptance options.
Yahoo Stores also offers themes for new sellers to use. Ultimately, every online store — whether it sells to consumers or other businesses — is going to want a custom or at least customized theme. But if your goal is to have a site up quickly Yahoo Stores will do that. Users may also upload themes.
The entire process of setting up a store on the new Yahoo Stores is intuitive, easy, and fast. It is also worth noting that the administration site is handsome and well designed, which is a huge improvement for Yahoo.
Mobile First Design Looks to the Future of Ecommerce
Yahoo Stores is mobile first, so a site just created will be optimized for a smartphone or tablet the instant that it is launched with one of the themes provided.
During a demonstration Kumar, showed a test site, called Kicks, which was built on Yahoo Stores’ Laude theme. The user experience for this theme seemed very good on both an iPhone and a desktop or laptop browser.
Yahoo Stores’ commitment to mobile first makes sense given that an increasing number of online shoppers are now using mobile devices to research products and in many cases purchase products. As an example, a recent survey from Custora, a predictive analytics platform, found that 37 percent of ecommerce traffic now comes from mobile devices up from just 3 percent of ecommerce traffic in just the last four years.
The platform’s mobile-first approach may also indicate that Yahoo Stores is committed to the future, if you will, of ecommerce.
Integrated Marketing Will Help New Retailers Get a First Sale Fast
When Kumar and his team at Yahoo set out to reinvent Yahoo’s ecommerce offering, they wanted to help their customers get started, build a business, and grow. In fact, they wanted to really help new ecommerce businesses get to the “first hundred sales,” Kumar explained.
To do this, the new Yahoo Stores includes an app gallery for easy integration with services like Yahoo Gemini — the company’s mobile, search, and native advertising platform — Google Shopping, Facebook Ads, and Justuno, to name a few of the available apps.
Users can sign up for these services, pay for them, and integrate them without leaving the Yahoo Stores administration site and without any real design or development knowledge.
Apps and extensions are a feature common on competitive ecommerce platforms and make this new Yahoo Stores more attractive to savvy store owners.
The new Yahoo Stores also has a built in chat feature that will allow storeowners and managers to initiate a chat with customers browsing the site or respond to chatting customers with questions. Chat is a powerful tool for making an ecommerce sale.
Built on Modern Technology to Scale, Perform
Kumar is also promising new and converted ecommerce businesses the ability to scale on a modern and fast technology infrastructure.
Yahoo has recently done significant work to improve page load times and peak traffic performance, Kumar said, and Yahoo Stores users will benefit from these improvements.
Given that Yahoo’s previous ecommerce offerings have had to handle 9 billion annual page views and as many as 150,000 orders per hour, Kumar’s promise of improved performance and scalability cannot be taken lightly.
While some Yahoo customers will see the new Yahoo Stores platform now, it will not be rolled out to all of Yahoo’s ecommerce customers for at least a few weeks.
The Very Competitive Ecommerce Platform Market
Yahoo has been offering an ecommerce solution for the past 16 years, and earlier in the Internet era it was the premiere ecommerce platform, serving many, if not most, ecommerce innovators.
As the ecommerce industry matured, the number of competitive ecommerce solutions increased, and Yahoo lost ground in the market. In 2009, there were reports that Yahoo would sell off its ecommerce business.
More recently, the ecommerce platform market has heated up even more. There is a long list of very good ecommerce solutions, many of which out performed Yahoo’s earlier ecommerce product. This new Yahoo Stores platform should make Yahoo Small Business much more competitive.
Yahoo Stores Good, but Not Without Issues
Although Yahoo Small Business has released screen captures of a theme gallery featuring many options, the site tested for this article had just three available themes, Laude, Wintour, and Shopenista, with a couple of color options for Laude and Wintour.
Shopenista and Wintour were not responsive in a laptop browser, so shoppers on a small touchscreen laptop cannot resize the store to get a tablet-like, touch-friendly layout.
The very fast initial store setup takes place in an attractive modal. Unfortunately, that modal did not fit on the screen of a 13-inch MacBook Pro without either going into full screen mode or changing the laptop’s screen resolution. The “next” button at the bottom of each section was hidden and the screens would not respond to the return or enter key nor would the modal scroll, meaning that some users might think that the setup screen is not working.
Mid-sized retailers may also face problems with frequent or rapid inventory and price updates, which is a common problem on many ecommerce platforms.
But, overall, the new Yahoo Stores ecommerce platform is a dramatic improvement that appears to meet the goals Yahoo and Kumar set out for it. Like any software solution, it is not perfect, but this update makes Yahoo Stores competitive with the best SaaS ecommerce solutions.