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Success in this segment requires a combination of technology and merchandising savvy: You need to get the operating software down pat and then get the goods right. virtually defined the business from the day it began operations, and recently has been testing grocery selling and delivery in a not-so-subtle attempt to go head-to-head with Walmart as it has with books, music and other merchandise classifications. Apple, on the other hand, has been wowing geeks, nerds and just about everyone else with its “gotta-have-it-now” products for as long as it has been around. These two companies have exploited their technological expertise and their innovative entrepreneurship to dominate the list of hottest online merchants.

Walmart is a different story altogether. The Bentonville behemoth had been considered a laggard when it came to e-commerce, but things have changed. Granted, its ubiquitous store base and reputation for low, low prices have helped Walmart since its belated entry into the digital selling arena. But there has been a real and dedicated commitment to this channel as demonstrated by the purchase of online movie service Vudu and social media technology provider Kosmix; co-founders of the latter are now senior executives with Walmart also bought a stake in Yihaodian, a major e-commerce company in China, a move seen as the next step in establishing an e-commerce hub in Shanghai.

CEO Mike Duke recently created @WalmartLabs to help bring Walmart up to speed with innovations such as smartphone payment technology and mobile shopping apps.