January 30, 2003, 12:00 AM

Why—and how—some employers encourage online shopping at work

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With a workforce spread across the U.S. and Canada, Weiss adds, it would be nearly impossible without a web-based system for him to establish a common program of discounted shopping benefits for all employees. “It could be hard for me to find someone in Wichita, Kan., to offer discounts on toys,” he says. With the Xylo connection to his corporate intranet, a common discount shopping program was immediately made available companywide. At the same time, if it wishes, Eddie Bauer can establish web links to retailers and service providers in each community where its store employees are located.

Getting set up with Xylo is fairly simple for both vendors and clients, its participants say. Workstream charges client employers a fee based on number of employees. The fees cover setting up and administering the content on the co-branded web pages, which are hosted by Xylo. There are no transaction fees, Halloran says.

Many employers create codes that employees must use to access their intranet and shopping portals. At Eddie Bauer, employees who work in the company’s Seattle headquarters use their company workstations to access the intranet and the co-branded Eddie Bauer/Xylo sections. But employees who work in stores generally access them through their home computers.

Intranets generally provide a link to the retailing site, which takes the employee to a shopping page that is still framed by the corporate intranet. While not all of the discounts that are available through the program are exclusive to corporate employees, the intranets allow the corporations to highlight discounts that an employee might not otherwise be aware of, Halloran says.

Halloran adds that Xylo has enabled Workstream to fill out its offerings in human resources programs, which include web-based applicant-tracking systems that can be used to manage large numbers of submitted resumes, outplacement services and a planned online job board at SixFigure.com.

One retail shopping area where Xylo is currently lacking is in enabling clients’ employees to conduct their grocery shopping from their computers. “We used to have HomeGrocer.com, so someone could get their food shopping done during their lunch break,” Weiss says.

HomeGrocer, of course, is out of business. But with other grocers like Safeway Inc. and Albertsons Inc. building up their web-based retailing operations, that’s more food for thought for Xylo and its clients.


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