November 28, 2007, 12:00 AM

The Internet Retailer Hot 100 Retail Web Sites

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Desktop widgets are new to e-commerce in the last year or so, and they are hardly as must-have as site search. But some e-retailers--including Hot 100 merchants J.C. Penney Co. Inc., Moosejaw Mountaineering and Shop.com--saw opportunity in these tiny web applications that sit on users` desktops and are linked to web sites whenever a computer is on: a new information tool with the potential to boost sales and greatly increase brand awareness.

J.C. Penney in May launched a robust desktop widget. JCPToday is a little larger and more complex than most widgets. The top half showcases the latest news, products and sales on J.C. Penney`s e-commerce site; a click on any of the small, horizontal message boxes connects a customer to the relevant page on the site. The bottom half is a weekly calendar that highlights a product of the day; consumers can click on any day of the week to get product information and images without having to leave the widget for the e-commerce site.

Video`s growing
Widgets are just entering the experimental stage in e-commerce. Last year online video was in its infancy in web retailing, though past being an experiment. This year, online video is on its way to potentially becoming a significant differentiator among Internet retailers.

Merchants in the Hot 100 using online video span product categories and size, from smaller e-retailers such as BestKiteboarding.com and Rockler Woodworking and Hardware to larger ones such as Barnes and Noble, Jewelry Television and ShopNBC.com.

BestKiteboarding.com features product and instructional online videos. Then it goes a step further: It hits the social web scene by posting videos of customers in action. Based on the popularity among the younger set of YouTube and other video sites and interaction with customers, the e-retailer knew online video would appeal to its core demographic, young men. And so it ladled video on thick, showing that even the little guy can be ahead of the game.

As it shows with its heavy use of online video and wild, colorful site design, BestKiteboarding.com exemplifies a trait at the core of being a market leader: knowing one`s customer very well. Many e-retailers set up shop based simply on the products they sell. Hot 100 e-retailers create site experiences with a keen eye on who is landing on their doorstep, fashioning design, merchandising, marketing, information and community strategies that appeal with great effectiveness to regular customers as well as prospects.

Step2.com recognizes parents can find shopping online for many toys difficult, but it goes a long way toward making toy shopping an easy task. Not only does the e-retailer offer good visuals showing the size and functionality of toys of all sizes, it also provides detailed information on practical matters like shipping times and assembly instructions--all on a single attractive page.

Abt Electronics knows customers have a specific plan when they seek electronics and appliances and the family-owned business has translated the user experience from its lone store to the Internet. Technology from Guidester Inc. enables Abt shoppers to sort products quickly from among more than 10,000 SKUs by clicking criteria such as price, features, manufacturer and, perhaps most important, user experience level to reduce choices. Abt expects the technology to contribute significantly to 2007 profits.

Really knowing customers and creating a spot-on shopping experience, excelling at core online processes, pushing the envelope with new concepts and technologies, setting trends--these are some of the things that push the Hot 100 e-retailers to the top. And all Internet retailers can learn something from these 100 online merchants, each and every one. bill@verticalwebmedia.com


Gomez performance testing methodology

Measurements were taken once per hour from 10 data center locations with standard 10 Mbps connections to the Internet. Measurements were calculated 24 hours a day from October 29, 2007, through November 6, 2007. The Hot 100 listings display the following metrics:

Response time Measured in seconds, the response time is the total end-to-end time required to fully download a home page and its entire image, Flash, style sheets, JavaScript and other HTML components. All successful measurements are averaged to generate the final result.

Availability Availability is the percentage of times a home page is successfully downloaded. All successful measurements are divided into the total measurements to calculate availability.

Consistency rating Based on standard deviation of the test response time and the test availability, the consistency rating is a quality ranking labeled excellent, good, fair or poor. An initial consistency score is generated as the product of the response time standard deviation and availability.


Click Here for the Guide to
Vendors of the Hot 100 Retail Web Sites

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