November 30, 2011, 10:53 AM

Publisher's Letter: Our annual new ideas issue

Our annual new ideas issue.

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Data drives much of what we do at Internet Retailer. We rank North America's top retailers by online sales in our Top 500 and Second 500 Guides, and do the same for Europe in the Top 300 Europe. For the first time this year, we ranked the top mobile retailers by their mobile sales in the Mobile Commerce Top 300.

But as important as quantitative research is, there's something to be said for qualitative analysis, too. And that's what our annual Hot 100 issue is all about. It represents the judgments of our editors about which e-commerce sites have broken new ground in the past year in ways that other e-retailers can learn from.

Because we're not limited to writing about the biggest retailers we can highlight in this issue some of the innovative newcomers. Take, an e-commerce site launched this year based on the astute observation that pregnant women often need clothes of a certain size for only a short time. At a woman can rent anything from a party dress to a swimsuit and return it when it no longer fits. Plus, the e-retailer asks women the gender of the baby they're expecting and includes in each package a free pink or blue crocheted hat as appropriate. Nice touch.

This issue lets us highlight smart thinking by retailers of all sizes, old and new. We can point out how furniture retailer Room and Board helps a consumer determine whether a particular sofa or easy chair will fit through her doorway and how. offers a free consultation with a bra expert and sends shoppers samples to try on at home. And while Netflix stumbled recently with its pricing decisions, it has come up with a cool way to let kids navigate its site, using images of cartoon characters to guide young viewers to their favorite shows.

In the mobile realm, we've highlighted 10 retailers whose mobile commerce sites and apps make shopping easy and enjoyable on smartphones and tablet computers. Innovation is coming rapidly in this arena. Consumers don't want to type in search terms on a mobile phone?'s mobile site lets them search by speaking into a phone or scanning a bar code. Among the coolest iPad apps is one from Sephora that lets a consumer watch a video of an expert applying makeup while simultaneously watching herself try to follow the expert's lead.

What the Hot 100 and mobile Top 10 retailers have in common is that they're not following the leader: They're coming up with new ideas that meet the needs of their customers.

And that's what the editors of Internet Retailer look for when selecting the retailers on this list. We work off nominations we put together based on our own stories, and seek the recommendations of industry experts. We also consider the input of readers who think their sites should be on the list.

Then we sit together in a conference room, call up each nominated site and discuss its strengths and weaknesses. We're always asking ourselves: What can other retailers learn from this site? If we've done our job well, you'll be able to extract an insight from each of the 110 profiles in this issue.

We'd like to know what you think. You can e-mail me at with your thoughts and suggestions. And feel free to nominate your own site for next year's Hot 100 list. We hope you discover new ideas in this issue that help you prosper in this holiday season and in the new year.

Don Davis, Editor

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

To View a Sample Profile Page: Click Here

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