What Constitutes a Retailer?

In an era when many companies and individuals sell goods via the web, the question of what constitutes a retailer is surprisingly complex. It’s not enough in itself to have a website or operate a store. In arriving at our definition of a retailer, we have considered the intent, capabilities, and activities around the recruitment and monetisation of customers.

The InternetRetailing definition for companies to be included in our research is:

DESTINATION: The retailer has created a destination that in the mind of the customer is a source of products, service or experience. Whether this is a shop, a site, a place, a time or an event, it’s the sense of ‘locus’.

PURPOSE: The retailer has created goods and/or services for the purpose of selling, and for consumption by the purchasing consumer.

MERCHANDISING: The retailer sells and is not just a portal for taking money. This means the selection, promotion and tailoring of retail offers for customers.

ACQUISITION: The retailer actively markets, recruits and attracts customers with a promise or proposition to the destination.

SALE: The retailer takes the customer’s money – they own the transaction as the merchant of record.

RECOURSE: The retailer is responsible for the service, fulfilment and customer satisfaction flowing from the sale.

EXCEPTION: In every good list there’s an exception, where we may include businesses due to their influence on retailers and retailers’ customers.


Where a candidate retailer is simply a marketplace, the company will not be considered. Where a marketplace undertakes customer acquisition, manages payment, customises offers and recommendations and offers recourse on purchases, then they will be eligible.

Pure transaction/tariffs

Where ecommerce is ancillary to the primary purpose of a business, we will not necessarily include them. Online payment for gas or electricity is excluded since the purpose here is energy supply.

Business to Business and direct-selling Brands

While the scope of retail is normally direct to consumer, two trends are challenging this: the move for brands and previously B2B businesses to sell direct to consumers; and the increasingly retail-like behaviour of B2B brands (in terms of acquisition, promotion, personalisation and service). We are therefore including B2B business and direct-selling brands under the same criteria as above.

We are sure we will come across other exceptions and questions as we work, so please do let us know your thoughts:

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We do our best to ensure every company of significance is tracked as a candidate for the Index but if you’d like to ensure that your company is in our list, fill out this form: