February 12, 2001, 12:00 AM

The pizza & candy quotient

Web stores, I’ve recently learned, only seem to run on the latest techno tools. The real drivers are pizza, candy and stock options. At least that’s the formula shared by e-retail executives this October at Internet Retailer World, our first conference for the industry.

Important as technology is to their sites, speaker after speaker talked about their investments in people-finding the right people to staff their operations, paying them competitively, supplying them with resources and new skills…just generally treating them right.

“We subscribe to the Starbuck’s model,” Ken Seiff, CEO of fashion discounter Bluefly.com, told our conference crowd. That means stock options for all-from top executives to customer service agents. When a recent warehouse switch led to late orders and an avalanche of e-mails from anxious customers, Seiff’s staff stayed up late to clear the backlog. Seiff has learned to keep plenty of candy on hand to help his staff get through crunch time. And in this case, he later ordered pizza to recognize the extra effort. (To hear about Seiff’s Christmas strategy, see our lead news story on page 6.)

As this year’s e-Christmas rings up sales projected to range from $6 billion to $12 billion, I recommend keeping your staff’s welfare top of mind. It has a very important ripple effect: If you handle people issues well, so will your staff. Superior customer service starts at the top, with an attitude that says people and their concerns matter. You end up with a culture that puts the customer first and stands behind what it sells. “Customer service comes from the heart,” says Seiff, “from a desire to do right by the customer.”

We at Internet Retailer want to do our part by doing right by our readers. That’s my pledge in my first issue as editor of the magazine, and I intend to make that my mantra as long as I’m on the job. I can’t promise you pizza, candy, or stock options, but I can deliver great content. That means thorough coverage, insightful analysis and scrutiny that separates real trends from passing fads. I also invite your suggestions on what you would like to read and your comments on what we write.

This issue, our fifth and largest so far, delivers on that pledge, building on a standard set out in our first issue in March. The issue is chock full of ideas, trends and dispatches, including more coverage from Internet Retailer World. Our cover story looks at the best of the Web, profiling the top 25 e-retail sites. Reporters T.J. Becker and Nicole Grasse assembled this package by talking to dozens of analysts, consultants, Web designers and e-retail executives. We studied the top picks people told us about, added a few of our own and chased down a series of vital signs such as traffic, sales and systems. What you have is a sourcebook of best practices that I suspect will stand the test of time.

For help in working through today’s agenda or planning tomorrow’s, keep us handy. If you supply the candy and carryout, we’ll hold up our end with good food for thought.

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