June 16, 2010, 6:06 PM

45,000 Yahoo Stores merchants prepare for m-commerce

Unbound Commerce is integrating m-commerce into the Yahoo e-commerce platform.

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One phone call by an e-retailer to a mobile commerce technology provider set into motion a string of events that could result in 250 new m-commerce sites by the end of the year.

Hot on the heels of last week’s announcement that e-commerce powerhouse Venda Inc. has partnered with m-commerce pioneer Digby to bring mobile to Venda’s nearly 200 retailer clients, Internet Retailer has confirmed that search and information giant Yahoo Inc. and m-commerce player Unbound Commerce have forged a partnership to offer m-commerce sites to the 45,000 merchants on the Yahoo Stores platform.

Venda CEO Jeffrey Max predicts nearly 200 new m-commerce sites from the Venda/Digby alliance by year’s end. Paul Boisvert, lead product manager, e-commerce, at Yahoo, predicts 250 new sites by December as a result of the company’s partnership with Unbound Commerce.

Yahoo and Unbound Commerce currently are in a trial run in which they will be testing m-commerce sites for 50 Yahoo Stores merchants, free of charge. First up are Artbeads.com (No. 388 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide), All Heart and TackleDirect.com. The partners will make the mobile offering commercially available Sept. 15, charging Yahoo Stores standard customers $50 a month and professional customers $125 a month. (The difference between standard and professional merchants is size and transaction volume.) When it becomes commercially available, merchants will pay Unbound Commerce, which will send Yahoo an undisclosed share of the revenue.

All of this started with Artbeads.com. It was anxious to get into m-commerce and looking around at available technologies. It chose to call Unbound Commerce, which, after finding out Artbeads.com was a Yahoo Stores client, had the idea of calling Yahoo with a proposal. That call came at a good time since a survey of Yahoo Stores merchants showed mobile commerce was among their top three most-requested features and functions. Yahoo then completed the circle and contacted Artbeads.com, asking if the e-retailer would be its first, showcase mobile client. The answer was a resounding yes.

“We embraced it with open arms because we’ve been searching for the right platform and wanting to get into mobile for quite awhile. So when we heard about the Yahoo integration we were very excited because we didn’t have to go through a third-party vendor and deal with the integration issues—it’s now just another part of Yahoo,” says Devin Kimura, CEO and chief strategist at Artbeads.com, and now m.Artbeads.com. “Mobile commerce clearly is a growth area and recently has been growing like crazy, and our users are demanding this and users in general are demanding more with their smartphones. We see it as a critical trend that we want to stay on top of.”

To create an m-commerce site under this partnership, Unbound Commerce takes the XML product feed from a Yahoo Stores merchant and runs it through a foundational template. From there, the retailer optimizes the look and feel of the site to fit its needs; for example, reorienting category buttons or setting varying splash images. Unbound Commerce takes orders from the retailer’s mobile shopping cart and, behind the scenes, through a Yahoo application program interface (API), sends the order to the Yahoo Stores-based shopping cart, where the order is processed.

With 45,000 potential customers, Unbound Commerce is preparing for a rush. It currently has only six retailer clients with m-commerce sites, including: The Finish Line Inc., No. 166 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide; Moosejaw Mountaineering, No. 277; and K&L Wine Merchants, No. 372. But it says it built its m-commerce technology, and the process by which it is implemented, with an eye to growth.

“Scaling up is handled in two ways,” says Keith Lietzke, chief marketing officer at Unbound Commerce. “One is customer support. It’s fairly templated. Artbeads.com, for example, has some flexibility over look and feel, but it all fits into a template. It was relatively few man hours for us to get Artbeads.com up and running. We built this system to be efficient. Plus, we’re hiring more customer support staff right now. The second way scaling up is handled is through our data centers, which are inherently scalable, we just add more servers.”

As for Yahoo, it’s quite happy the stars aligned the way they did to make this partnership happen.

“Mobile is critical to Yahoo because of the adoption trends we are seeing,” Boisvert says. “E-commerce at the core is all about convenience and every technology layer you put in place is all about making it the most convenient, user-friendly shopping experience—and mobile is a part of that. People want to be able to shop wherever they are. Mobile is where everything is going and we need to be there.”

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