April 1, 2009, 12:00 AM

Why we invested in the Top500Guide.com

We’ve decided the only way out of this storm is to sail through it. That is why we will continue to invest in new products.

The prudent course for a business in a steep recession is to reduce spending-on marketing, product development, travel, hiring, and any other spending that is not absolutely critical to keeping operations running. It’s like trimming your sails in a storm.

That’s the conventional wisdom, and it’s clear that most businesses-and consumers-are heeding it today. The cutback in private spending has become an epidemic. What began as a slowdown in business development and marketing morphed into economic paralysis. The psychology of saving for a rainy day is now so entrenched it’s prolonging the storm, like a giant low pressure cell that won’t move. In order for a recovery to begin, we all need to loosen our grip on the checkbook.

Like our mariner friend on this month’s cover, we’ve decided the only way out of this storm is to sail through it. That is why we will continue to invest in new products. Our newest-the Top500Guide.com-was launched March 16 after more than 15 months of development work by our editors, IT staff and our primary solutions provider on this project, AmericanEagle.com Inc., which built the new site to our specifications.

Those specifications were comprehensive and detailed, because our goal in taking our best-selling Top 500 Guide to the web was not merely to offer online a lame digital representation of the Guide’s 448 pages. What we wanted was an interactive database-one that allowed users to rearrange the more than 60,000 facts we have collected on the 500 largest e-retailers in whatever manner they want in order to produce a plethora of custom e-commerce market research reports.

The print version of the Top 500 Guide ranks the 500 largest e-merchants based on their online sales and provides dozens of measurements of their operations. Top500Guide.com allows users to rank all Top 500 web merchants or any product or other grouping of online retailers by their conversion rates, average sales tickets, various performance ratings, SEM contribution to sales, web traffic, or any other critical measurement of web retailing. Users can also easily rank vendors in 16 solutions categories based on the number of clients they serve among the Top 500 e-retailers. And because it’s on the web, the data at Top500Guide.com can be accessed by subscribers at any time, from any place and with any computer.

Why did we make such a major investment in the middle (we hope) of a deep recession? For one thing, the e-retailing market is not suffering as badly as, say, autos or housing. That doesn’t mean e-retailers aren’t affected by the recession; they are. Still, as this month’s cover story suggests, e-retailers are relatively sanguine about their economic prospects, enough so that we think that they will purchase this order-of-magnitude improvement in e-commerce data delivery and analysis. Second, we believe this recession will end sometime next year, and when it does the new products we launch this year (there will be more-stay tuned) position us to capitalize on the recovery more effectively than our competitors will. Recoveries reward most those who most innovate during recessions.

We believe this attitude well serves e-retailers. Those who take risks and make investments now will be the ones who prosper most when the economy comes back. E-retailing’s future is brighter than ever, and those among you who do their part to revive our economy now will emerge from this recession much stronger than they entered it. If you agree, why not check out our new e-retailing database: www.internetretailer.com/top500guide

jack@verticalwebmedia.com

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