Instacart Retail

How Retailers are Making an Impact With Online EBT SNAP Acceptance

Grocers are at the heart of their communities, and thus have incredible opportunities to improve the lives of consumers with whom they interact daily. The mission statements of many retailers reflect this people-first focus – and they are investing accordingly.  

In the past year, we’ve helped retailers take action toward their community-centric goals by partnering to enable Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) acceptance online for grocery delivery and pickup in 49 states and Washington D.C. SNAP is designed to help people across the country who, due to income and mobility challenges, lack critical access to food. 

Today, more than 30 million Americans rely on the program, and federal spend was ~$114 billion annually in 2022 (up from $108 billion in 2021). This continued increased investment in the program is helping Americans overcome the food insecurity gap; the Congressional Budget Office projected an 18% increase in SNAP usage by Americans in 2022. As emergency SNAP benefits are set to end, affordability is only going to further increase as a core buying consideration. 

To date, retailers have partnered with Instacart to enable EBT SNAP acceptance for online grocery delivery in 49 states and Washington D.C., increasing access to healthy and nutritious foods including fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, and more for millions of Americans. This rollout has seen incredible results; the number of monthly EBT customers has increased by over 30% year over year (for the month ending September 30, 2022). 

Let’s take a deeper look into how digital EBT SNAP integration can benefit consumers and grocers alike, and how Instacart makes it possible.

Increasing customer purchasing power

Accessing healthy food can present an insurmountable challenge for SNAP recipients across the U.S. who have difficulty shopping in-store due to living situations or disability. Enabling EBT SNAP payment online helps families overcome some of these barriers by making grocery delivery more accessible and enabling eligible families to purchase nutritious foods directly from their home.

According to a recent study conducted by No Kid Hungry, there is a strong appetite among SNAP customers for access to online shopping with support that makes it easier to use. Some SNAP households indicated that online shopping helps them to better plan and save money, while simultaneously reducing stress, providing convenience, and providing the ability to try new items. Many also expressed a preference for the anonymity of shopping online, instead of using their EBT card in-store, where they might experience stigma related to public benefit use. 

Where SNAP participants are already shopping online, unlocking EBT payment acceptance will help increase their purchasing power. When more payment options are added online, it’s easier for customers to plan their shopping trips and save money, while easily seeing what qualifies for EBT SNAP payment.  

Enabling this seamless EBT SNAP payment integration online appears to lead not only to net new customers for retailers, but to increased engagement among customers who use EBT SNAP versus those who don’t, via improved retention and increased purchasing power. Combined, all of this drives meaningful incrementality and inspires loyalty with the retailer, while enabling consumers increased access to nutritious foods.

Enabling faster EBT acceptance for retailers

The No Kid Hungry Online Shopping Report also highlighted a number of barriers cited by retailers for expanding SNAP EBT online, including technology infrastructure, start-up cost, and staffing. Retailers’ efforts to bring EBT SNAP benefits to their customers can be bogged down by lengthy implementation and process delays. Instacart has partnered with the federal government and Fiserv to accelerate grocers’ time to certification. Here’s how:

  • Trusted e-commerce partner with a proven model: We pioneered the program’s integrator model in close collaboration with the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and Fiserv, and have a team of experts that help demystify the end-to-end process for our retailers. This enables partners to move significantly faster than if they were to do it themselves through the Direct Connect model. 
  • Our in-house technical expertise: Instead of retailers having to stand up their own support team, we handle the technical build required to launch SNAP by offering a turnkey product that is pre-approved by regulators and helps to streamline the FNS testing process.

Continued program support, innovation, and investment

Getting EBT SNAP acceptance live for online ordering is just the beginning of the journey. Instacart continues to support our retailer partners and their customers as the program expands in their communities. 

In addition to making sure the customer experience is seamless and intuitive, we maintain an extensive EBT SNAP online guide to support and educate retailers and their customers on the experience. We’re also continuing our innovation and investment in EBT SNAP by expanding across all platforms, building enhanced EBT-driven features, and exploring new programs. These include EBT balance check, a feature we’re building that will enable eligible consumers to check their balance early in their shopping journey.

Expanding access to food via EBT SNAP is aligned with both Instacart and our grocery partners’ missions. As part of our commitment to drive accessibility and affordability, through spring 2023, we’re extending an existing promotion for free delivery or pickup on customers’ first three EBT SNAP orders. Last year, this promotion contributed to a 25% increase in average weekly EBT SNAP activations in Q1 of 2022. For a limited time, EBT SNAP customers can now save more by joining Instacart+ with a discounted monthly membership for their first year. 

Instacart’s goals for the future of EBT SNAP online

Retailers can make a difference in their community, and in doing so improve their business. Enabling EBT SNAP payment online can help them not only reach and serve more customers, but make a real impact for Americans in need within their communities.

Instacart aims to continue to drive accessibility to healthy foods by partnering with U.S. grocers to improve the e-commerce experience, whether through EBT SNAP payment integrations, e-commerce experiences that provide health information, or serving up inspiration through healthy recipes. We plan to continue to support these initiatives – and more – in 2023.

Learn more about how you can leverage our technology to reach EBT SNAP recipients and other customers.

Instacart

Author

Instacart is the leading grocery technology company in North America, partnering with more than 1,400 national, regional, and local retail banners to deliver from more than 80,000 stores across more than 14,000 cities in North America. To read more Instacart posts, you can browse the company blog or search by keyword using the search bar at the top of the page.

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