A team of six senior editors headed up by the research director spends six months each year compiling data, writing profiles, researching companies and fact-checking data for each Top 500 retailer. Surveys with compiled historical information are sent to each existing Top 500 merchant and likely newcomers at the beginning of each research cycle. Retailers then update their information and the new data is verified and edited by the research team. Each retailer sees their individual compiled data summary at multiple times during the course of the research to verify and update their information.
The starting point for data gathering is our list of retailers from the previous year, combined with updated web traffic figures from comScore Inc. and Millward Brown Digital (formerly Compete Inc.). That list is supplemented with merchants that Internet Retailer has come across in its research, requests from retailers to be included and suggestions from technology vendors and e-commerce analysts. Whenever possible, web sales figures listed in the electronic and print versions of the Top 500 came from the company. If the company did not provide sales figures, Internet Retailer estimated sales based on traffic and assumed conversion rate and average ticket for that retailer's category—as well as analyst interviews. For monthly visits and monthly unique visitors, official numbers were supplied by many retailers. When a retailer did not reveal numbers, researchers used comScore, Millward Brown Digital or Internet Retailer estimates. For the conversion rate, in most instances researchers used category data and analyst interviews to formulate estimates. For the average ticket and if the merchant would not reveal a number, researchers used category data and analyst interviews to formulate estimates. In all instances where an estimate is used, it is footnoted.
Researchers contact each retailer several times over the course of data collection to compile, collect and fact-check each merchant's information. If the merchant did not provide full financial, operations and web site summary information, Internet Retailer used metrics from that retailer's category—as well as analyst interviews—to formulate estimates. Additional data is supplied to the Top 500 from these information partners: comScore Inc., Millward Brown Digital, Compuware, ForeSee, Experian Marketing Services, ROI Revolution Inc., StellaService and Listrak. In all instances where an estimate is used or the data is supplied by a third party, the figure is footnoted. Retailers were given multiple opportunities to review and respond to estimates.