The 2014 Hot 100 Web Sites

Behind the scenes of the Hot 100

Throughout the year the editors of Internet Retailer frequently get inquiries from e-retailers and their public relations firms asking what it takes to make the cut for the Hot 100. The short answer is that we select e-commerce sites that have broken new ground in some way other e-retailers can learn from.

That’s purely a qualitative judgment, of course, and different from the approach Internet Retailer takes in our research guides, such as the Top 500 Guide® and the 2014 China 500. Those research products rely on hard facts—they rank retailers in a given part of the world by their online sales. Facts are our business, but once a year we think it’s important to offer our informed judgments on the online retailers that are leading in innovation, even if not yet in sales.

To provide that analysis, the 16-person team of editors and research analysts behind the Hot 100 selections collectively look at thousands of e-commerce sites from around the globe each year. We run searches, zoom in on photos, watch product videos, check out what they’re doing on Facebook and with mobile commerce, and more. We keep logs about the sites that stand out to us in some way, and when August rolls around, we start putting those logs to good use.

We each nominate about 20 e-commerce sites that we think are noteworthy, and we also reach out to industry experts for their recommendations. Sites that have also been submitted to us directly for consideration go on the list too. We break into three teams and book the office conference room pretty much full-time.

Then the debates begin.

We call up each site on the list and the editor who nominated it makes a pitch for why it should be included in the Hot 100. We test the site features that the editor points to and call up competing sites in that product category to see if they have comparable features. Few sites get easy agreement, but eventually we vote a site up or down, and it remains on the list or gets deleted.

The selection process in 2013 was a bit different than in the past because for the first time we considered e-commerce sites outside United States—we are now tagging the Hot 100 as the “world’s best retail web sites.” Today we regularly see U.S.-based retailers moving to compete in international markets through e-commerce, while foreign retailers are moving into the United States. Eight foreign retailers made the cut for the 2014 Hot 100 this year; we expect to feature many more in future editions.


Percentage of sales derived from social media for apparel retailer Lolly Wolly Doodle Inc.

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Response time for Apple Inc.’s iTunes web site


The amount of Facebook “Likes” garnered by cosmetics retailer


2013 monthly average unique visitors for drugstore retailer CVS

Key Features

  • Comprehensive Scope100 retailers profiled in 11 merchandising categories, plus 10 m-commerce trailblazers

  • Thorough Analysis33 data elements citing sales, web site performance, vendor relationships, and more

  • Solutions Providers27 different categories of vendors

  • Sales Figures2012 web-based and mobile sales

See all features