November 30, 2012, 12:00 AM

Food / Drug

The secrets of edible e-commerce.

Lead Photo

The food and drug online retailers celebrated in this year's Hot 100 offer a range of products, from sweets to pizza—and, really, almost everything in between thanks to the inclusion of one large retail chain. But they all understand that success requires meeting each consumer's precise desires. Retailers' drive to satisfy the appetites of consumers has led to some truly noteworthy accomplishments.

Take Domino's Pizza, for instance, a staple of college dorms that has transformed itself into an e-commerce powerhouse, with $1 billion in annual online sales and nearly a third of its total sales stemming from the web. Not only can consumers with growling stomachs order pizza online, even from their mobile devices, but those shoppers can track their orders—one of the ways the pizza chain ties customers closer to the brand.

Chocolate might be another caloric indulgence, but knows how to build a healthy e-commerce presence. Servicing the high-end tastes of its gourmet base, it uses text, video and photos to share stories about both the company and its products. Those efforts have been rewarded with a boost in conversions.

Also targeting the consumer who desires the finer things in life, Stratus Vineyards sells its premium wines, in part, by offering such product details as winemaker notes and suggested food pairings. That type of information appeals to the sophisticated wine fans the Ontario-based winery strives to serve, and has helped make a hot retailer for 2013.

But not all of the food and drug retailers in this year's guide go after narrow customer niches, as shown by drugstore chain CVS/Pharmacy. Not content to sell merely through stores that squat like fortresses of consumerism on street corners throughout the nation, the chain's web site and mobile app extend its aisles into cyberspace. Shoppers can receive personalized offers and reminders about prescriptions due to be refilled, along with a record of recent shopping activity. Oh, yeah, CVS also offers a Spanish-language version of its e-commerce site, showing that local languages aren't just for online retailers selling outside the United States.

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