March 28, 2013, 4:01 PM

Editor's Letter: Set no small goals

Hiroshi Mikitani, the chairman and CEO of Rakuten Inc. and subject of this month's cover story (page 28), likes to think big.

Hiroshi Mikitani, the chairman and CEO of Rakuten Inc. and subject of this month's cover story (page 28), likes to think big. His current objective is to reinvent how retailers sell to consumers on the web, and have his online marketplaces be the places they do that. That's no small goal.

Mikitani, who goes by the nickname Mickey, says the way forward for e-commerce is to make online shopping more enriching and informative, more like entertainment rather than a simple transaction. That's how Rakuten built itself into the largest e-commerce operator in its native Japan, where the gross value of merchandise sold via its Rakuten Ichiba—rough translation: happy commerce—marketplace outsells Inc.'s Japan shopping site. Now Mickey is taking that approach to e-commerce globally, and is working hard to convince merchants Rakuten's approach will resonate with consumers outside Japan.

On page 44, you'll find a story at the opposite end of e-commerce as an entertainment source. It's all about speed. It looks at retailers and services testing formulas for same-day fulfillment of online orders—letting consumers place an order at breakfast and have it in hand by dinner. It's about need-it-now utility, but like a quick stop for milk at a convenience store versus a leisurely day strolling neighborhood boutiques, consumers have different needs at different times. Presumably there's room on the web for retailers satisfying either, or even both.

Lastly, I want to point out Internet Retailer's own reinvention. With this issue, we're showing off a new look and are trying out story formats we hope you find appealing. On page 24, for example, there's a department named Debate that has two e-retailers debating the merits of using open-source or traditional, closed-source technology to build their web sites. There's also Discuss on page 64, which is a forum for e-commerce insiders' opinions on hot-button industry topics, and several other new features, all meant to keep you and your business on the leading edge of e-commerce. You'll also soon see the new look and approach on We hope you like it.

Allison Enright, Editor

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