Yahoo enhances small business e-commerce service

Yahoo is testing improvements to the checkout portion of its Yahoo Merchant Solutions hosted e-commerce service for small businesses.

The beta version of the service's new Checkout Manager gives merchants more flexibility to control the content, flow, visual design and layout of the checkout pages, said Jimmy Duvall, director of e-commerce products at Yahoo Small Business.

The improvements are based on Yahoo research and on feedback from merchants who said they wanted more granular control over the look and feel of their Web storefronts' checkout section, Duvall said in an interview Wednesday.

Giving merchants the ability to customize the checkout pages and process much more than is possible now will improve the overall buying experience for shoppers and increase sales, Duvall said.

Specifically, Yahoo is making it possible for merchants to control the font, colors, button appearance and content in navigation areas throughout the site, including the checkout pages, Duvall said. Another new feature is the option of using a single checkout page, which some merchants prefer for its more streamlined look, whereas the current system only allows for multiple pages, he said.

The new Checkout Manager also can place shipping and coupon calculators on the shopping cart page, which helps buyers calculate the total cost of an order at the start of the checkout process, he said. Other new capabilities include control over how and where fields are displayed in the checkout pages.

Merchants who take advantage of these enhancements and revamp their checkout pages accordingly can expect to see an increase in completed sales, said Sanjeev Aggarwal, a Yankee Group analyst.

Checkout pages that share the same look and feel with the rest of the Web site, a simplified checkout process and the convenience of calculating coupons and shipping costs early all contribute to reducing the number of shoppers who abandon their shopping carts in the checkout area before completing the transaction, he said. "Yahoo is doing the right thing" with these enhancements, Aggarwal said.

The new Checkout Manager is already available for merchants who want to try it out and activate it on their online stores, a Yahoo spokeswoman said Thursday. Merchants who aren't interested in testing it yet can continue using the existing Checkout Manager, she said. More information is at http://smallbusiness.yahoo.com.

About 35,000 e-tailers use Yahoo Merchant Solutions and collectively sell billions of dollars worth of products online, Duvall said.

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