Getting Started with Yahoo! Merchant Solutions

Getting Started with Yahoo! Merchant Solutions
So you’re selling on eBay. Is that enough? Maybe. But many businesses selling online use multiple channels, which really is what this book is all about. If you’re only selling through eBay you may be leaving money on the table. Using multiple sales channels can both increase revenues—that is, grow your business larger, faster—and make your business more stable. Fluctuations in one channel are easier to handle when you have several channels bringing you business. So, in the second part of the book, we’re going to look at how to set up an online store . . . using Yahoo! Merchant Solutions. Yahoo! Merchant Solutions provides a quick and easy way to start selling online through your own store. You can present your products to the public, take orders using credit cards, view sales statistics, and do everything else required when building a successful online business. You can see an example of a store created using Merchant Solutions in Figure 12-1. You have plenty of choices when picking an e-commerce system . . . so why use Yahoo! Merchant Solutions? Yahoo! Merchant Solutions has many advantages and is a good choice for many small merchants: ■ It’s Yahoo!. You’ve got a big brand behind you, which means . . . ■ Stability They’ll still be around next year, and the year after that, while plenty of e-commerce service providers have gone out of business! ■ Great support Toll-free, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, there’s always someone you can talk to, and in most cases, they’ll answer quickly. They also provide a dedicated “consultant” you can talk to for the first 30 days—you’ll get a real person’s name and direct phone number. ■ Solid infrastructure Yahoo!’s web servers are fast and stable. Interruptions in service are likely to be rare and brief. And Yahoo.com is the world’s most popular web site, so the company knows how to handle huge amounts of web traffic and enormous traffic surges (so you know your site won’t go down at Christmas!). ■ It’s proven. Some people who started small e-commerce stores with Yahoo! are now doing millions of dollars’ worth of business each year . . . and are still with Yahoo!. ■ You’re in good company. Merchant Solutions is probably the most popular e-commerce system on the Web; more merchants use this software than any other product. ■ It can handle volume. Merchant Solutions can handle catalogs of up to 50,000 products, as well as rapid transaction frequencies. Some companies sell millions of dollars’ worth of their products through this system each year, and have been doing so for five years or more. ■ You’re on a development path. You can start with the basic Store Editor creation tool now (as explained in Chapter 14), and shift to more advanced HTML-development tools later, as the business grows. You’re with a consulting community. Yahoo! has been selling an e-commerce system for a number of years now (in fact, the system they use has probably been on the market for around ten years). There’s a large community of Yahoo! Merchant Solutions developers, so it’s easy to hire someone to help with your store. ■ It’s affordable. You can begin selling online for as little as $40 a month with a $50 setup fee. ■ It’s flexible. In this book, we’ll be looking at the basic page-creation tool, Store Editor. However, Merchant Solutions allows you to create web pages with any HTML tool, and to use Perl and PHP scripts and MySQL databases. ■ It’s simple. Actually, Yahoo!’s most basic page-creation tool can be difficult to learn if you have to do so on your own. You don’t. This book leads you through the Yahoo! Merchant Solutions setup, making it into an easy-to-use system. ■ It offers a simple credit-card processing setup. Some systems make setting up creditcard transactions complicated. Merchant Solutions makes it easy. ■ Web hosting is included. When you sign up for a Merchant Solutions account, you get a full-featured web-hosting account, too. ■ You get Yahoo! Shopping integration. Yahoo! makes it very easy to submit products to Yahoo! Shopping; in fact, Yahoo! Shopping will check your product information up to four times a day to ensure it has the most recent data (see Chapter 21). ■ There are lots of discounts. Yahoo! Merchant Solutions members get special discounts on various services. For instance, you’ll save 20 percent on click fees through Yahoo! Shopping (see Chapter 21), You’ll also get a three-month free trial on an e-mail marketing tool, as well as a 33-percent discount on a “keyword analysis” tool. So let’s get moving right away and begin building your Yahoo! Merchant Solutions store. Choosing a Merchant Solutions Package Yahoo! has three different packages available: Starter, Standard, and Professional. All three packages allow you to take credit-card orders, provide you with an equal number of e-mail accounts, provide automated UPS-shipping processing, come with 24-hour, toll-free support and 30 days “consulting” assistance, and so on. You can find details about these features online (http://smallbusiness.yahoo.com/merchant), but the following list provides a quick summary of the sort of features you’ll find in all three packages: ■ Free domain name with your store ■ Free support by 24/7 phone line and e-mail ■ Web-hosting space where you can store image files and create web pages, along with 10GB of disk space to store your files and 200GB of data transfer per month ■ One hundred e-mail accounts, with 2GB storage space per account ■ A shopping-cart system that allows buyers to purchase products using credit cards ■ An order-management system in which you can process orders ■ A way to receive orders by fax and e-mail ■ Integration with UPS’s shipping system for price calculations, shipment tracking, and label printing ■ Statistics related to traffic in your store and sales made Make sure you look at Yahoo!’s policies (http://store.yahoo.com/vw/guide.html). Yahoo! won’t let just anyone use one of their Merchant Solutions stores. Some products are banned from the Yahoo! system. All packages have these features . . . so what are the differences? There are only a few ways in which they vary, which makes it relatively easy to choose among the packages. Table 12-1 summarizes the differences among the three packages. With the Starter package, you won’t be able to export orders to the UPS WorldShip service (useful if you ship a lot of packages through UPS, not so important when first starting out). You also won’t be able to automatically export transaction data to other software programs. You won’t be able to accept orders faxed to you. The statistics provided to you won’t be as good; you won’t be able to see the click trails—the path taken by visitors through your site—and won’t be able to see search terms people used to find your site or to search within your site. You also won’t be able to use gift certificates, the cross-sell feature (which allows you to suggest related items when someone selects a product), or coupons, and you won’t be able to create trackable links—a tool that helps you build simple “affiliate relationships” through which you can pay other web sites a commission for sending buyers to your store. There’s another important difference, too. When you sell a product, Yahoo! takes a transaction fee: sell a $100 product and Yahoo! will take $1.50 if you have the Starter, $1.00 for the Standard, and just 75 cents if you have the Professional package. So which do you choose? You only need the Professional package if you do a lot of shipments through UPS, or if the savings in the transaction fees outweigh the additional monthly fee. So, most people just starting out can forget this option. The Standard package has useful features—fax orders, better statistics, gift certificates, coupons, cross-sell, and trackable links— all of which are missing in the Starter. But for many, a good choice is the Starter because you’ll pay much less while you build the store and learn how to use it. When you’re ready, you can contact Yahoo! and upgrade to the Standard package, and once you do a lot of business, you can upgrade to the Professional package with no additional setup fee. (In this book we’re going to be using the Standard package.) If you’d like to see a chart listing all the features and comparing the three packages, click one of the Features buttons you’ll see when you first enter the Merchant Solutions home page (http://smallbusiness.yahoo.com/merchant/), then click the Compare button on the page that appears. Do You Need a Web Site, Too? Merchant Solutions, in essence, provides two things: ■ A “store” account, in which you can create your web store ■ A web-hosting account, in which you can create a web site using a variety of different tools The “store” account contains the following items: ■ A store catalog ■ A shopping-cart system ■ All the mechanisms needed to handle sales tax, shipping rates, transaction payments, and so on ■ The ability to create additional pages, which can contain contact information, a privacy policy, and so on The Merchant Solutions store account creates a special form of e-commerce web site; it provides a very fast way to build a store web site. However, it doesn’t provide as much flexibility as other methods for building web sites, so some business owners combine the two. They still need Merchant Solutions to provide the shopping cart and other tools for processing sales, but they also create a separate web site and combine the two pieces. They use a webdesign tool to create a web site and the store’s catalog pages, but use Merchant Solutions to manage transactions—to set up sales-tax rates, shipping rates and methods, and payment methods. Because Merchant Solutions includes a full-featured web-hosting account, you can create virtually any kind of web site in association with your store. You can use a plain old text If you run into problems during the sign-up, call and chat with Yahoo! at 1-866-781-9246. Also, note that Yahoo! will provide 30 days free consulting with any of the packages; you can ask them to look at your site and suggest improvements. 144 How to Make Money Online with eBay, Yahoo!, and Google editor to create your HTML pages if you understand how to do that, then upload them to your hosting account. To create pages, you could use Microsoft FrontPage or Dreamweaver, or any of hundreds of other web-creation tools. Deciding How to Build Your Store Pages There are four ways to build your store’s catalog pages—the pages that actually display your products: ■ Use the Store Editor provided by Merchant Solutions. ■ Use Yahoo!’s SiteBuilder tool to build pages, then upload them to your web-hosting account. ■ Use Macromedia Dreamweaver, combined with the Yahoo! Merchant Solutions Extension, then upload pages to the hosting account. The Extension automates some catalog functions. ■ Use some other kind of HTML tool, such as Microsoft FrontPage, along with Merchant Solution “store tags” to define products, then upload pages to the hosting account. (Connecting to the Merchant Solutions product catalog is a bit more work than using the Dreamweaver Extension.)   To register for an account, navigate to http://smallbusiness.yahoo.com/merchant, click the Merchant Solutions link, and follow the instructions. The forms will lead you through the process of picking a domain name and will try to “upsell” you on a more expensive Merchant Solutions account. Remember that all packages come with 24-hour, toll-free support, 30 days of consulting, and the ability to be upgraded later (with no setup cost). You may want to spend a little time thinking about your domain name before signing up. Go to domains.yahoo.com to get to Yahoo!’s domain-registration service. There are also many services online that help you select a name; www.nameboy.com is a good one to try. Whether you register with Yahoo! before setting up your Merchant Solutions account or register with any other service, you’ll still be able to use it with Yahoo! when you’re ready. However, if you register the domain at the same time you set up your Merchant Solutions account, you’ll pay no registration fee, and Yahoo! will pay the renewal fee each year as long as you still have a Merchant Solutions account. Before you register your Merchant Solutions account, check to see if the domain name you want is available. You can search at http://smallbusiness.yahoo.com/domains/. Avoid “domain confusion.” Don’t register a domain name that is likely to be confused with another. Don’t register royalsaunas.com if someone else owns royalsauna.com, or bluesauna.org if someone else has bluesauna.com. If you market heavily using the domain name, some of the traffic will go to the other domain, possibly a competitor! After you have registered your account, you should receive several e-mails from Yahoo! Read these carefully—and save them—as they include important information. 148 How to Make Money Online with eBay, Yahoo!, and Google If you can’t find your way back to your Manage My Services area, go to the Small Business Home (http://smallbusiness.yahoo.com/), then click the Manage My Services button in the top right. The Manage My Services page, shown in Figure 12-2, is the central “control panel” for all your Yahoo! services. The list that follows shows what you can do from this page. ■ You’ll see a Store Manager link; this is where you’ll work with your Merchant Solutions e-commerce system. ■ There’s a Web Hosting Control Panel link. This takes you to where you’ll manage your web-hosting account. ■ The Domain Control Panel link takes you to an area where you manage your domain name, if you registered it through Yahoo!. ■ Every Merchant Solutions account comes with 100 e-mail accounts; the Email Control Panel link takes you to where you can manage these. ■ Use the Check Email link to read e-mail messages using the Yahoo! Small Business Email system. ■ Click Compose Email to create an e-mail message ■ Click View www.domain.com to open a browser window containing your store. (Remember, when you first set up the account, you’ll see an Under Construction message.) ■ Use the Billing Information links to view or modify the information used to pay for your Merchant Solutions account each month. ■ Click the Change Plan link if you want to upgrade to the next Merchant Solutions package. ■ Click Add Extras to add e-mail accounts or disk space. When you first view the Manage My Services page, you’ll find that the Status is set to pending. You can begin working on your account, but it takes a little while for the domain name to point to the store. In other words, if you open a browser, type the domain name into the browser (store.puresauna.com, for instance), and press ENTER, the browser will not load a web page from your store; you may see an error page or a Yahoo! Under Construction page. It will take a few hours, perhaps a day or so, before the domain name points to the site. Pointing Your Domain to Your Store If you already own a domain name—and therefore did not register one for the store during your Merchant Solutions account setup—you need to point the domain to the store. In other words, you have to change the domain’s settings so that when someone types the domain into a browser, the main page from your store will be loaded. In order to point a domain to a web site, you have to change the DNS settings for the domain. DNS means Domain Name System; it’s the system used by the Internet to specify where a web site can be found. When you change DNS settings, you are telling the Internet which web server has your site so that a browser knows where to go to find it. In order to point your domain to your Merchant Solutions store, you have to change the nameserver information associated with your domain to use the Yahoo! nameserver information. This sounds a little complicated, but don’t worry too much about the technical aspects. Yahoo! should send you an e-mail providing the nameserver information if you told Yahoo! that you intended to use an existing domain. (If you can’t find this information, call and talk to their customer support people.) Provide this information to whoever manages your domain name. If that’s you, go to the registrar’s web site and look for a page where you’ll see “Set Nameservers” or something similar, and follow instructions there. You can only point a single domain to a Yahoo! Merchant Solutions store. However, you can forward as many domains to the store as you wish. With forwarding, you don’t change nameserver information; you simply tell the registrar to forward browsers to another domain name.