November 30, 2007, 12:00 AM

Leaders for today and tomorrow

With this issue, Internet Retailer introduces its Hot 100 online retailing web sites. They have in common the willingness to innovate and set the standards in online retailing.

With this issue, Internet Retailer introduces its Hot 100 online retailing web sites-100 sites that in the opinion of the editors reflect the best of what’s happening in retail on the web. The Hot 100 for 2008 represent the range of online retailing, from small to large, well known and not so well known, and include chains, catalogers, online-only merchants and brand name manufacturers. They have in common the willingness to innovate and set the standards in online retailing.

This year’s sites range in size from Amazon.com and Dell.com, which set the pace of innovation while finding ways to build customer relationships and sales, to such smaller sites as RomanicosChocolate.com, which has used the Internet to build a national following for its delicacies.

This is the ninth year we have recognized the best retail web sites. And it is the first year that we have recognized 100 sites. The first Best of the Web-in the November/December issue of 1999-recognized the Top 25. Three years later, we expanded the recognition to the Top 50. Now we have grown the best of the web to 100 in acknowledgement of the continued expansion of this market as more retailers understand the power of the online channel. By limiting ourselves to 50, it was becoming difficult to recognize all the outstanding sites that operate today. With this recognition, we have striven over the years to make sure we include smaller innovators.

If there’s one thing that the Internet makes possible it’s that size doesn’t always equal excellence. Many smaller sites have created or adopted innovations that larger sites have emulated. And we expect that will be true this year also. In fact, RepairClinic.com, a highly specialized site that offers a giant database of appliance parts and how-to information to help DIYers fix that broken-down dryer, is one example of the ways in which the big learn from the small online. Home Depot reported as we were preparing this issue that it has established a relationship with RepairClinic.com to serve DIY home repairmen looking for parts at Home Depot.

Our Hot 100 also is part of Internet Retailer`s mission to spread ideas as a way to help the industry thrive. We firmly believe that public recognition of sites that execute some or all of what they do well will only result in the entire industry moving to the next level.

And you don’t have to look very far to find great examples of things that a few sites did that are now widely accepted as best practices in the industry. Product reviews, for one. Amazon innovated in that area, a few retailers followed suit, now they are widely implemented and surveys have shown that consumers find them among the most useful of web site content. Videos and how-to information for another. And they are also a good demonstration that you don’t have to be big to offer such information. Among the Hot 100, Home Depot and Lowe’s on the one hand and Step2.com on the other offer deep how-to information, often coupled with videos.

This issue culminates months of reviewing and culling sites and organizing data. It would not have been possible without the stellar efforts of the entire magazine editorial staff and a group of freelance writers that Internet Retailer has cultivated over the years. Special recognition is also due Cindy Wilkins, our Marketplace manager, who worked long and hard to ensure that the vendors who make the retailers’ success possible get recognized as well.

We congratulate all Hot 100 sites. And we encourage all retailers to look at what it is that makes the Hot 100 what they are.

kurt@verticalwebmedia.com

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