November 30, 2011, 10:35 AM

Creative license

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The category pages at convey the feel of a magazine, with headlines and text describing handbags, with links to product pages. At, hovering over a main category tab across the top of the page produces the familiar listing of subcategories—along with an image and text promoting a featured item. At newcomer, just launched this year, one of the four top navigation tabs is labeled Fame and directs visitors to magazine layouts featuring the retailer's jewelry. underplays the navigation and spotlights the fashion photos of its stylish boots. And on category pages a fly-out appears from the left edge of the page highlighting a sale or event, then slides back, ready to open up again at a click from the visitor.

Help on the way

Shoppers sometimes need help making a decision, and several Hot 100 retailers offer it in clever ways. At a consumer who loved a particular museum painting can upload the image and find similar pieces, or search by 16 types of art, from Pop to Abstract. "Most people are not very confident in their tastes, or don't know what they are looking for," says CEO Geoffroy Martin.

When the recession hit, Fat Brain Toys created a Toy Value Index to help shoppers decide which toys offer the best value. There's also a Toy IQ rating based on customer reviews.

Web-only underwear retailer, which doesn't charge sales tax in most states, came up with the startlingly simple idea of highlighting that fact on its home page with a prominent box that declares, for example, "Free shipping and tax-free shopping in Illinois."

Ideas don't have to be complicated to be impactful. All that's required is the kind of original thinking that pervades the Hot 100 profiles in the pages that follow.

To Order the Entire December 2011 Hot 100 Issue: Click Here

To View a Sample Profile Page: Click Here

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