Grocery shopping has fundamentally, likely irrevocably, changed during the pandemic as more consumers have opted for online grocery shopping out of convenience or necessity. But what about people who rely on food stamps?
According to a recent Pew survey, a full quarter of adults have had trouble paying bills during the economic melee attributable to the pandemic. As of July 2020, over 40 million Americans were on food stamps, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Food stamps exist to help low income individuals, including those enduring a temporary hardship, bridge a crucial financial gap to access food. But as grocery shopping has migrated online at an unprecedented rate, many smaller merchants have struggled to find ways to accept digital payment using food stamps. In California, where I live, only five retailers (Albertsons, Amazon, Safeway, Vons, and Walmart) accept food stamps online.
That's left a lot of consumers without a flexible grocery shopping option at a time when in-person school closures and other pressures have left many with less time than ever for shopping. Add to that the burden of standing in line at many grocery stores, which has become a persistent reality in Los Angeles and other major urban centers. Sensing a possible play for market share, a company called Stor.ai, which offers end-to-end digital commerce solutions for grocers of all sizes, has leapt into the fray with a new capability focused on food stamps.
"Technology which enables SNAP participants to carry out their regular shopping online is a win-win scenario for grocers and low-income families alike," said Eli Yeheskel, Director of U.S. Operations of Stor.ai. "Millions of food-stamps customers will now be able to shop online and pay for groceries using their food-stamps account. Meanwhile, grocers will be able to significantly expand their reach – a real game-changer for smaller community stores."
Most SNAP payments today are made through EBT (electronic benefit transfer) payment cards. Stor.ai now enables grocers to accept split payments involving multiple payment methods.
"I am proud that Stor.ai is at the forefront of another paradigm shift as we work towards accelerating digital transformation within the grocery industry as a whole," said Orlee Tal, CEO of Stor.ai. "Retailers must embrace technology and digitization in order to maintain and expand their client bases, especially given the growing popularity of online grocery shopping. At Stor.ai, we prioritize our customers to fully understand their needs, and we identified clear demand for tools which enable grocers to cater for recipients of food stamps."
Stor.ai's digital commerce option is part of a rapid-moving trend toward digital commerce, which is now becoming a norm even for small grocers and mom & pop retailers. The trend mirrors a growth in autonomous delivery services targeting small businesses.
The pandemic has accelerated adoption of various technologies aimed at the grocery delivery paradigm. In 2020 alone, Stor.ai saw 250% year over year growth.