December 1, 2005, 12:00 AM

Why we recognize retailing`s online leaders

We believe spotlighting the best online retailers benefits both the honorees by allowing them the recognition of the industry and the rest of the industry by showcasing what the leaders are doing.

Every year at this time, Internet Retailer recognizes industry leaders with our Top 50 Best of the Web issue. We believe spotlighting the best online retailers benefits both the honorees by allowing them the recognition of the industry and the rest of the industry by showcasing what the leaders are doing.

This recognition fulfills one of Internet Retailer`s missions--to provide information that helps all online retailers become better at their jobs, thus helping to take the industry to the next level. It`s the entire reason for the magazine and for the other products that the magazine supports--the Top 400 Guide to Retail Web Sites, the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition, the four-times-a-week IRNewsLink e-mail newsletter and InternetRetailer.com.

We bring to the Top 50 the same editorial objectivity that we bring to the rest of the magazine and our other products. We start the process of choosing the Top 50 by contacting our Editorial Board of Advisers, made up of expert and experienced online retailers, for nominations. We also poll the many consultants and analysts that we deal with throughout the year. And we draw on our own experience as reporters who view hundreds if not thousands of sites a year and as consumers who shop online. In fact, personal experience as a customer resulted in several nominations this year and a couple of those making the final list--as well as some not making the list.

Once the nominations are gathered, the editors discuss the sites and argue their merits--or flaws. Then we go back to our outside support group--the editorial advisers, consultants and analysts--to do reality checks. Finally, we whittle the group down to 50. What we do not do is allow advertisers, vendors to the industry or friends at retail sites to influence the outcome.

As in the past, this year`s winners reflect the total range of online retailers: They are big, small and in between; they are chains, catalogers, pure-play e-retailers and consumer brand name manufacturers.

What they hold in common is an understanding of the crucial role of the web in today`s retail environment and in their companies` overall strategies for success. And in that way, they reflect the broader trends of society and business. The Internet has become so interwoven into all of our lives in ways that were unimaginable 10 years ago that almost every business`s future success depends on a web component. By the nature of their business, retailers have been in the forefront of the Internet revolution. Much of what retailers have learned about harnessing the web are lessons that can benefit other industries as well. Thus the Internet Retailer Top 50 set the standards not just in retailing but for web sites all over.

This issue would not have been possible without the assistance of our Editorial Board of Advisers, the many consultants and analysts who contributed ideas and commentary, or the many excellent sites that we had to choose from. The Internet Retailer staff warmly thanks all. This is also the first Top 50 issue that our new marketplace manager Michelle Suchomel worked on and we are grateful for her hard work in allowing industry vendors the opportunity to share some of the reflected glory of the Top 50 winners.

Finally, as 2005 closes, we thank our readers and advertisers for their support and wish everyone happy holidays and a peaceful, prosperous and joy-filled new year.

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