Inside The Top 50 with Heather McIlvaine | #169

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Heather reveals the judging process for the Top 50, the trends she’s seeing amongst the line up and how generosity is one of her favourite traits

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Nathan Bush is a director at eCommerce talent agency, eSuite. He has led eCommerce for businesses with revenue $100m+ and has been recognised as one of Australia’s Top 50 People in eCommerce four years in a row. You can contact Nathan on LinkedIn, Twitter or via email.

Heather McIlvaine is features and premium editor of retail at Inside Retail. In her nearly four years writing for Inside Retail, Heather has traveled to Shenzhen to cover the epic Chinese shopping event Single’s Day, doggedly reported the details of Amazon's launch in Australia, toured the biggest office supplies store in the world to understand the future of physical retail, and followed the local fashion industry's pivot to making PPE during Covid-19. She is an LA-native who now lives in Melbourne.

You can contact Heather at LinkedIn

In this episode of Add To Cart, we are joined by Heather McIlvaine, Features and Premium Editor at Inside Retail. If you haven’t heard of Inside Retail, get your butt over to and sign up to their daily email. And if you’re already a lover of what they do, become a professional subscriber. I reached out to Heather because she is behind the Top 50 People in eCommerce which you may be seeing all over your Linkedin newsfeed right now. Now in its 7th year, Heather and I discuss the process for putting together a list that is as competitive as the Top 50 People in eCommerce. Bad news – bribes don’t make the cut. We also chat about why it is important to be generous in your career and how to get the attention of trade journalists if you have a message that you want to get out. If you see yourself as a future Top 50 star, this is a conversation you want to listen to! 

“There’s a new generation of people with new ideas that are disrupting the established way of things and it’s an exciting time”

Heather McIlvaine

Questions answered in this episode include
  • Which practitioners are at the top of their game in eCommerce according to the Top 50?
  • What trends stood out for you in the Top 50 in 2022
  • What are your tips for making a story stand out when pitching to Inside Retail

Unbiased judging

“We have a rubric, a scoring rubric to ensure that everybody’s on the same page about what kind of answer gets a certain score. The rubric is a lot about showing whether the person showed, gave specific examples and perhaps evidence in their answer to kind of back up their claims. 

How many examples of innovation did they provide? How impressive was the growth, the commercial success that they contributed to? And that sort of thing. So, we’ve had good feedback from the judges on having that scoring rubric to help ensure that they don’t get swayed by their own biases. 

It’s not a blind application. The reason we’ve done that is because there are all different types of e-commerce businesses. And we think it’s important that you know what size the business is, what they’re selling, what industry they’re in. So we found that we don’t feel like it’s possible to make it a blind application process, and because of that we have this rubric to try to ensure that it’s as objective as possible.”

A stand out

“One that stood out to me was chain management. Now, I think we’ve all been hearing and reading a lot about the supply chain lately. So that might not be that surprising, but one of the top 50 stood out to me in particular. I’m just trying to remember his title. It might be CCO at BROSA, Rushabh Sanghavi.  

In his application, he detailed how, by having great contacts in the supply chain and having nurtured those relationships over the years enabled, BROSA, an online furniture brand to avoid the really, really lengthy delivery delays that a lot of other businesses in that space were suffering from. I don’t have the specific numbers at hand, but I just thought that was a great example of how crucial a skill like that is at this current moment. It probably will continue to be. So I think that’s certainly one that stood out to me.”

Tips for a successful Inside Retail story

“The first tip is just to continue to email because if we don’t get back to you initially, it could be that it’s a busy day, it’s slipped through the cracks, you never know.  And sometimes it’s the perfect story for right now. So, if we don’t pick up on it at first, it’s not to say that it won’t be interesting later on. So don’t take silence as a no is what I would say. My colleagues might hate me for that, but personally I kind of like it when people come back to me. 

The other thing is I think that it’s really important, and I hear this all the time from retailers when they’re talking about how to acquire customers, which is what’s unique about your story? And whether it’s the founder’s personal background or it’s a particular way of doing something that nobody else is doing or an overlooked customer pain point or problem. Being really clear about what sets your business apart from any other is going to be really helpful for us to identify quickly if it’s a story that we need to cover or not because it’s a small team. We produce as much content as we can, but we only have a certain number of stories we can write up. So, that’s really helpful. 

If there are any big names. Big names and big brands always help, we notice in terms of getting clicks. So, if there’s somebody backing your business who is a well known person in your industry, definitely mention that.”

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