In its second-largest acquisition, Amazon buys the company for $970 million.
Continuously improving the web shopping experience while integrating the web into store operations is what ties together the 2004 Internet Retailer Best of the Web—Top 50 Retailing Sites—and sets them apart from the pack.
Consumers are turning increasingly to the web for their shopping-witness the 25% rise in online spending so far this year, on top of a similar increase last year. Retailers are doing their part to entice consumers with attractive, easy-to-shop sites, great product selection and merchandising and features that consumers can’t find in stores.
At the same time, the retail industry’s understanding of the role of the Internet continues to deepen. Witness the growing emphasis on the role of the web in multi-channel retailing. Lamps Plus, for instance, has installed six web-enabled kiosks in each store, using them to enhance associates’ sales skills and to prompt customers seeking out-of-stock items to order them from LampsPlus.com rather than to go to a competitor’s store.
Continuously improving the web shopping experience while integrating the web into store operations is what ties together the 2004 Internet Retailer Best of the Web-Top 50 Retailing Sites-and sets them apart from the pack.
In the case of Lamps Plus, the retail chain has adopted a deliberate strategy of using the web to centralize the knowledge that is dispersed throughout a retail organization. “You have a wealth of experience in business, but it’s not shared knowledge,” says president Dennis Swanson. “Going on the Internet has forced us to take what we’ve learned over 30 years, formalize it into a common interactive process, and put it where customers and salespeople can access it any time.”
Or take Gap Inc., another retailer using the web in a multi-channel strategy. Gap aired a commercial this fall featuring entertainers Madonna and Missy Elliott singing about cords from the Gap. Gap used its e-mail customer database to send a sneak preview of the commercial to customers, then set up a separate spot on its web site where customers could view the commercial and some behind-the-scenes footage of the filming of the commercial. “Our customers like to be in the know,” says Felix Carbullido, vice president and web general manager of Gap Online.
And they like to emulate the stars. The monogrammed cords that Madonna and Elliott wore in the commercial were available only at Gap.com, and the site sold tens of thousands of monogrammed cords soon after the commercial aired. “That would have been impossible to pull off in the stores,” Carbullido says. Says Geoff Wissman, analyst with consultants Retail Forward Inc., “The Gap is taking multi-channel retailing to a whole new level.”
And then there’s Sears.com. Wasting no time taking advantage of its acquisition of Lands’ End last year, Sears, Roebuck and Co. unveiled a sharp new site this year, calling upon the first-rate web expertise of Lands’ End executives. The new site is easier to navigate than the old and offers easier product comparisons. But in creating a new web experience, Sears didn’t lose sight of why it had a web site in the first place: getting shoppers into the stores. One-fifth of its appliances are sold to customers who arrive at to the store with printouts from the web site knowing exactly what they want. Meanwhile, Sears’s Lands’ End continues to excel on the web.
These are only a few of the examples of the online retailers who make up the fifth Internet Retailer Best of the Web-The Top 50 Retailing Sites. All excel in some way, most in many ways. The Top 50 sites represent a range of retailers from big well known brands to small, niche sites and manufacturers’ sites. It includes online pure-plays, retail chains and catalogers.
The editors base their selections on consultations with members of Internet Retailer’s Editorial Board of Advisers and with industry consultants and analysts, nominations from readers and the editors’ own experience in dealing with sites, both professionally and personally, throughout the year.
We are pleased to present this year’s Internet Retailer Best of the Web-The Top 50 Retailing Web Sites.
The following profiles were written by Kurt Peters, Mary Wagner, Paul Demery and Lauri Giesen.
Data on the following pages marked with * are courtesy of comScore Networks Inc. based on a cross-section of 1.5 million Internet users who have given comScore permission to monitor their online activity.
|Computers / Electronics / CDs / Videos||Flowers, Gifts & Jewelry|
|Food & Drug||Housewares & Home Furnishings|
|Mass Merchants||Specialty / Apparel and Accessories|
|Specialty / Non-Apparel||VictoriasSecret.com|
2004 Guide to Vendors of the Top 50 Retail Web Sites