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Yahoo Small Business Spinning Off; Re-platforming Advice

The information below is posted with permission from Istvan Siposs, long-time Yahoo Store Developer. It was send in a February 23, 2015 YTimes email newsletter.

Lately, a lot of things have been happening around Yahoo! Small Business, and by now most, if not all of you have probably heard at least some of it. I've been getting emails and phone calls from worried merchants who, understandably, are worried and uncertain about what the future holds for their online stores. While an official communication from Yahoo is still forthcoming, I thought I'd go ahead and share with you what has been made public, what I know, and my take regarding the situation.

Starting with Yahoo! Stores (or "Yahoo Store 2.0"), you may or may not have heard that about a year ago Yahoo started building a brand new e-commerce platform. I was part of a select number of developers who worked with the new platform from the beginning, and helped develop the "themes" new Yahoo Stores customers can choose from when signing up with the new platform. This new platform has been available to the general public for some time (maybe a couple of months or so?). The new system is very different from, and not compatible with the editor-based system your store is on. Although available to the general public, the new system still has a lot of features planned but not yet done, and admittedly in its current form it is aimed at small scale stores rather than larger enterprises most of you are running.

Then, very recently came the announcement that Yahoo! Small Business is going to be spun off Yahoo! as a completely separate, independent company. This development had to do with the fact that Yahoo! is a major shareholder of Alibaba, and because of the Alibaba IPO they were going to be slapped with a big (huge) tax bill unless they could somehow get rid of a bunch of Alibaba shares. The immediate flip-side of this is that this new (yet to be named) company will be the most well funded "startup" in History. I put "startup" in quotes, because of course it is far from being a startup. The "new" company will come with a seasoned team of professionals, plus the technical background of the Yahoo! e-commerce platform. Not being part of a huge corporation such as Yahoo! may actually be an advantage in that the new company will be free to concentrate on what they know best: e-commerce. By the way, as you can imagine, the formation of the new company will not take place in a matter of days or weeks; it is going to be a process lasting most likely several months.

So where do all these developments leave you and your current Yahoo! Store? Here are the facts I know:

  • The new platform is moving forward, but is not yet up to par with the current system. - The current system is not going to be shut down.
  • No current Yahoo! Store will be forced to switch to the new system. Since the viability of the company depends in no small part on the existing merchants, it really means that you can continue running your business as usual, investing in new development and all, knowing that the platform you are on will not be pulled from under your business. However, I know that some of you are entertaining the idea of moving to a different platform, and others will be courted by different platforms to switch and take your business elsewhere. If you are considering re-platforming, you should keep the following in mind:
  • Replatforming is expensive. Contrary to what you may hear, unless you have a cookie-cutter online store, moving it to a totally different platform will probably involve a new design (an existing "skin" can never be transferred from one platform to a different one), a brand new implementation, plus migrating your data (which, granted, some of the other platforms make it easy for you.)
  • Since the new Yahoo system is not compatible with the current Yahoo store system, switching from the current (RTML-based) system to the new 2.0 system is the same as re-platforming (to a third party system.)
  • It's very nearly impossible to replatform and expect your SEO to remain exactly the same.
  • If your main reason to replatform is because "the other guys" said your SEO will immediately be better, it is not true. One platform is not inherently better for SEO than another. Your web site's SEO is only as good as your content.
  • ... and along the same line, when you hear someone say that Yahoo Store is bad for SEO, that's not true either. This platform has more Internet Retailer Top 500 businesses than any other.
  • If you want to replatform because the other platform is mobile-friendly out of the box, that's probably not entirely true either (and as a matter a fact, it is not entirely true with the new Yahoo! 2.0 platform either.) You can have a mobile-friendly "canned" template, but it will not be unique to your business. If you want a custom designed web site, there is work going into making it mobile-friendly.
  • And, related to this last point, the current Yahoo! Store platform does allow mobile-friendly web sites. Email me for examples if you are interested.
  • Lastly, as tempting as it may seem to cure any number of perceived ills you are experiencing by jumping to another platform, you will still be faced with needing some level of custom design, custom development and consulting services, preferably from a trusted, experienced e-commerce solutions provider, a role that Y-Times continues to fulfill.

This may be a lot to absorb especially if you haven't been up to speed on the recent Yahoo! Small business developments. Feel free to email me or call, or contact your Yahoo! account representative if you need more information.

Istvan Siposs
Y-Times Publications, LLC.
www.ytimes.com
February 23, 2015 Email Newsletter