CHICAGO -- The Independent Grocers Alliance here is offering retailers an "in" to the Internet by providing a World Wide Web template on which they can build a site.
Though many chains have launched web sites and assigned full-time webmasters to manage content on the pages, it's been more difficult for smaller players to justify spending the money and time to develop a site from scratch. The new IGA template, however, provides a shortcut and speeds the learning curve for its membership.
Retailers in Montana, Ohio, New Jersey and Illinois are currently evaluating whether to sign on to the program, said Mike Wallace, management information systems manager for IGA. He said a dozen or more additional retailers have expressed a serious interest.
Vic Buraglio, president of Kirby Foods, Champaign, Ill., is among those retailers evaluating the program. He spoke with SN a few minutes before viewing a demonstration.
"Here in Champaign-Urbana, we have a lot of people using the Web," he said of the college town that is home to the University of Illinois and 36,000 students. Until recently, free Internet access was available locally, but the network provider has begun instituting fees, prompting Kirby Foods to explore alternatives.
Buraglio, who noted that one of his competitors already has a web site, decided to contact IGA corporate headquarters only to learn a retailer web-deployment project was already under way.
"We feel our focus is to provide retailers a service, to give them an edge to compete in their markets. It's in our interest to provide retailers with the ability to go on-line," Wallace said.
Retailers that sign on to the program can customize their own sites by starting with a template created by IGA and modifying the content using FrontPage web authoring software from Microsoft, Redmond, Wash. Web site content is then stored on servers resident at IGA's corporate headquarters, Wallace said.
The IGA template makes use of frames technology, which allows retailers to subdivide a page into individual windows. The template contains a number of features from the very basic -- store location, business hours and telephone numbers -- to weekly contests and promotions sponsored by leading brand manufacturers.
Retailers can also populate a recipe archive for customers to access, or invite visitors to submit their own recipes.