Mass Merchant

December 4, 2013 12:54 PM

It's a never-ending process for many of the mass merchants in this year's Hot 100, as they regularly tweak their sites to better serve customers. Take, for example, Dollar Tree Inc., a chain retailer with a penchant for low prices. The retailer speaks its shoppers' language—literally—online by enabling visitors to translate virtually all the English wording on its web site into Spanish with the click of a button. It also offers free shipping and in-store pickup for more than 3,300 items.

Similarly, highlights deals and discounts—among its shoppers' prime concerns—on its home page. And earlier this year the retail chain pledged to match the prices of major online competitors., a web-only retailer that carries about 1 million SKUs in such categories as home improvement and furniture, helps shoppers navigate its site by placing its search bar atop each screen. The search bar follows the shopper along, keeping track of what she has put into her cart, and providing continual access to the checkout button.

And two of the biggest web retailing heavyweights— Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.—also keep evolving. Amazon added a number of niche stores selling items such as flowers and fine art. And it also worked with a magazine publisher to offer one-click payments for magazine subscriptions. Meanwhile, retooled its site search, which it says boosted conversion rates.

The mass merchants chosen for this year's Hot 100 have another thing in common: eight of the 10—Amazon, CaféPress Inc., Groupon Inc., Hayneedle,, Target Corp., Wal-Mart and Zazzle Inc.—are ranked in Internet Retailer's 2013 Top 500 Guide. Groupon was the fastest-growing web retailer in the Top 500 Guide, with its sales of physical goods rising 20 times higher in 2012 than 2011.

As a group, mass merchants in the 2013 Top 500 Guide increased online sales at a solid clip. They posted web sales of $67.66 billion in 2012, up by 23.6% from $54.75 billion in 2011. That was the second-fastest growth rate in the guide, behind only merchants selling books, music and videos, which grew web sales by 25.9% to $16.69 billion.

Keeping up in web site design and functionality means a lot to mass merchants because the largest ones attract tens of millions of visitors every month. Market research firm The Nielsen Co. reported that U.S. consumers who visited the e-commerce sites of mass merchants spent 52 minutes on average over the course of nine site visits in July. led in both unique visitors (78.5 million) and average time spent on site per visitor (33 minutes and 52 seconds).'s 36.9 million unique visitors spent 14 minutes and 39 seconds per person on the site and attracted 21.2 million unique visitors who spent 10:19 on the site.

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