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In 2021, food insecurity in the United States increased by 45%, with 19.5 million households struggling to feed their families. There is federal support like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that provides up to $150 per household through Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards to increase access to nutrition products. healthy groceries. Yet more than 20 million of the lowest income households received minimal benefits.
About 68% of the cause of food insecurity was due to access to supermarkets. Food deserts are those where an area’s poverty rate is 20% or more, or the nearest stores are more than a mile away from at least one-third of the population. Customers without cars can’t get their food – and stores without customers close. But what if local stores had visibility into demand?
Ninety-five percent of executives believe geospatial data through online sales is critical to achieving financial and customer experience goals. Point of Interest (POI) data in near and far areas can improve store inventory listings, support market reach, and personalize customer offerings by providing demand insights by region. Small, remote businesses can put their city and their products on the map through online grocery platforms and reach a wider audience.
Yet the problem is not just physical access for rural (food desert) residents. When the most important national hunger program is limited to in-store purchases, what happens when consumers do not have physical access to a store, transport is limited (and expensive) and their payment cards don’t work online? How can digital retailers help them?
The future of groceries in rural deserts is about more than being online. It is about providing economic, physical and digital access.
Support economic access with EBT
Today, more than 38 million people in the United States use economic support to make purchases. The challenge for stores is that only specific items are available for purchase with the EBT credit card – for example, restrictions apply to alcohol, tobacco and pet food, which complicates division of orders and purchase.
There are two things retailers need to do to make EBT work online:
1. Classify their items into eligible and non-eligible products.
2. Update their transactional system to accept two digital payment methods (i.e. debit card and their EBT card) for a purchase – ensuring that the eligibility list is applied to the EBT method.
EBT-supported platforms will automatically split each bill, charging all eligible food items such as vegetables, grains, and meat products to the benefit card and all disallowed items to their alternate card. E-grocery technology that integrates double-payment processing with the online grocery shopping platform will help retailers increase economic access to their rural EBT customers and minimize suffering in their community.
Underrepresented businesses in rural areas can benefit from increasing the number of citizens who can shop at their stores. Additionally, the new EBT feature is reaching out to local shoppers in need who had not heard of the program. When stores use their geospatial data to see patterns of member growth, increased purchases, and EBT card users, they can support the national movement by identifying areas and extent of need to better distribute l ‘food aid.
Still, customers may have the option of buying online. But how can small traders in disadvantaged neighborhoods bring orders to customers’ homes without breaking the bank themselves?
Improve convenience with omnichannel delivery management
It’s not rocket science that every delivery van with five additional customer orders means five more people to absorb delivery costs. And when each vehicle is fully loaded, retailers also reduce fuel consumption, costs and carbon emissions. However, the challenge for rural communities with a smaller customer base is to ensure that every journey is optimized.
There are several ways local retailers can use online grocery technology to improve delivery efficiency in their area:
1. Collaborative Delivery Network Platform: independent stores in the region are teaming up to pool trips (and freight costs), from manufacturers to warehouses and customer door stops.
2. Extend regional digital client: opening their online stores to outside regions – providing a wider customer base and increasing the ability to deliver at maximum capacity.
3. Automation of scheduled deposits: Stores in smaller areas can choose to deliver on only one or more particular days so that all of their customers plan their orders in advance and shop for weekly deliveries.
The roles of manufacturers, warehouses and physical stores overlap. Retailers must manage everyone’s inventory, as well as their online and offline sales, to ensure that all orders are fulfilled and delivered from the most convenient location.
Omnichannel distribution is the management of deliveries from multiple collection and drop-off points. When small retailers come together, they can share fulfillment centers based on their geospatial customer data to improve resource allocation, reduce travel times, and ensure product availability. Platforms that integrate real-time demand, drivers, assets and inventory data will support independent stores with efficient and collaborative decision-making so that stores can share drivers with multiple stops in progress of road.
Delivery systems also benefit older people – my dad is over 90 and I often buy and deliver his groceries. While I can still order for him, today’s user-friendly dashboards also make the process easier for tech newbies to understand. According to NPD Group, baby boomers spent 49% more money online in 2020 than the previous year, largely due to improved user experience.
But what features are appealing to the wider market?
Mobile platforms for customer and merchant
Online shopping is less about replacing people who go to stores and more about making local retailers accessible to a larger market. By 2025, expected mobile commerce (m-commerce) sales will double to $728.28 billion and account for 44.2% of retail e-commerce sales in the United States.
With four-fifths of rural Americans having a smartphone, compared to 72% with laptops and broadband, mobile shopping increases access more than any other device. However, many retailers still get it wrong.
Mobile sites account for 97% of all payment abandonment, compared to just 20% abandonment on mobile apps (and 68% abandonment on desktop sites). With customers storing card details in mobile wallets, mobile commerce players have direct access to improving the end-user experience. The power of apps and their ability to securely hold customer information makes it easier to repeat orders without entering payment information each time, which encourages better shopping cart execution.
Additionally, apps with personal IDs and purchase history make it easier for retailers to learn about their customers’ individual preferences and suggest healthy additions to complete their shopping lists. For example, data models tell retailers that 78% of customers buy large amounts of pasta. They notify their client’s app: Hey, we noticed you like pasta. Did you know that zucchini provides vitamins C and K? Would you be interested in this zucchini pasta recipe?
By providing personalized advice and simple answer questions to their consumers, stores encourage use of the app and can collect data to improve their inventories and further enhance their customer proposition.
The shift to online shopping and mobile apps opens up access to new markets – so even rural deserters can share and enjoy their local products – while feeding location data back to stores to improve product distribution.
When independent retailers, delivery drivers, and communities work together, they can share resources and data to optimize inventory listings, storage, and distribution to meet customer demands efficiently and cost-effectively. Allowing customers to securely save their payment details, access personalized tips and rewards, and even use their EBT cards means the whole community can feel supported.
Bagrat Safaryan is co-founder and CEO of Local Express.
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