December 1, 2010, 12:00 AM

Publisher's Letter: Our present to you: 110 great e-retail ideas

The boundaries of the e-commerce site are fading in this era when social networks and sophisticated mobile phones are so much a part of consumers’ daily lives.

December is the most fun issue of the year for the editors of Internet Retailer. It gives us the chance to select and celebrate the best examples of online retailers’ creativity and innovation over the past 12 months. Our aim with each of the 110 stories in this issue is to highlight at least one lesson that other retailers can emulate.

We put a lot of time into compiling this list of 100 e-commerce sites and 10 outstanding mobile commerce programs. We start with a long list of e-commerce sites and mobile sites and apps provided by our editors, industry consultants and online retailers who believe their sites merit inclusion. Then we look at every nominee, meeting as often as four times a week from early August through mid-September. We’re constantly asking: Is this retailer doing something unusually well, something that other retailers could learn from and employ?

Careful readers will notice that most of the retailers on last year’s Hot 100 list of e-commerce sites are not included this year. That’s because we’re looking to highlight innovations of the past year, so this is a compendium of the newest good ideas in e-commerce.

As I reread each of the 110 profiles I was struck by how the boundaries of the e-commerce site are fading in this era when social networks and sophisticated mobile phones are so much a part of consumers’ daily lives. Today, a shopper in a bricks-and-mortar store can scan a bar code on her iPhone and go to the web to get information about the product, reviews, and prices from other retailers. She may wind up at Levi.com where, if she signs in with her Facebook credentials, she can see the items her Facebook friends have liked. She can put together an outfit and e-mail it to friends, or post it to her Facebook page.

Where will she ultimately buy that outfit? In the physical store? At an e-commerce site? Through her mobile phone? At a retailer’s store on Facebook? All of the above if you consider all the shoppers like her.

Levi.com is on the Hot 100 list because it was among the first retailers to respond when Facebook opened up its treasure trove of consumer data to other web sites, as long as the Facebook members permitted. And many other Hot 100 retailers on the list are leveraging the social web effectively. Consider BeautyChoice.com, which has engaged makeup artists with followings on YouTube to create videos featuring BeautyChoice products and specials; the site now draws 30% of its traffic from YouTube.

The boundaries of the web site are eroding in others ways. Burberry streams its February fashion show live to Burberry.com. American Apparel takes photos of all its storefronts, then shows a visitor the three stores closest to her, based on her IP address. Increasingly, the web site is just a part of a seamless relationship with a consumer.

And then there are ideas in these pages that are just smart. EBags answers the question whether a shopper’s laptop will fit inside a bag; once she’s provided her laptop model, the site will automatically tell her if the computer will fit into other bags she views. E-grocer Peapod provides product information based on information a shopper has included in his profile, such as pointing out that an item is high in sodium to someone seeking low-sodium foods. Shoplet’s site search recognizes item numbers from competitors’ catalogs.

There’s plenty more. We hope you find these ideas useful, and that they help you prosper in 2011.

don@verticalwebmedia.com

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