Executives from the leading eCommerce firms joined Forrester Research, Inc. (Nasdaq: FORR) for an industry summit on the future of eCommerce ratings. The goal of the summit, held last week at Forrester’s corporate headquarters, was to discuss the utility of rating systems as both a tool for consumers and a benchmarking method for commerce site operators.

“Commerce site ratings are available from several sources, but a number of merchants have expressed concern about the usefulness of these rankings as a measure of how well their sites are working and how they stack up against the competition,” said David E. Weisman, group director of research at Forrester. “To address these concerns, Forrester decided to create a forum in which online merchants could learn more about the methodologies used in Forrester’s PowerRankings™ and to discuss how these rankings could be used as an industry benchmark.

“Our goal in convening the summit was to ensure that the methodology used in Forrester’s PowerRankings was understood by merchants and open to input from industry leaders,” Weisman continued. “With broad industry support and input, we are confident that PowerRankings will quickly come to be recognized as the accepted measure of eCommerce performance.”

The companies represented at the summit included 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Alaska Airlines, Amazon.com, Big Star Entertainment, Inc., Bluefly, Inc., Borders.com, iQVC, MicroWarehouse, Inc., Outpost.com, PC Connection, Inc., and SmarterKids.com.

Forrester’s PowerRankings use consumer survey data and rigorous shopping tests to evaluate the leading eCommerce sites. To find out where online consumers are shopping and what their experiences have been, Forrester asks members of Greenfield Online’s market research panel to evaluate the sites where they have most recently shopped. These experiences are then tested by a team of Forrestershoppers who anonymously shop the sites identified in the survey, objectively scoring them along six dimensions that mirror the criteria in the consumer survey. The consumer survey data and Forrester shopper scores are then combined and weighted to produce a score that emphasizes the features consumers deem most important.