Food Stamp Users Surveyed about BOPIS, Grocery Delivery
The news broke just last week.
Food stamp recipients can now purchase groceries online for store pickup or home delivery.
The USDA, which administers the nation’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), kicked off a two-year pilot program with Walmart, Amazon, and ShopRite to let SNAP recipients in New York state join the swelling ranks of Americans shopping for groceries online. If successful, the USDA will expand the pilot to additional states.
Notably, SNAP recipients will not be able to use their benefits to cover BOPIS and delivery fees, and they’ll also be required to meet the minimum-purchase requirements of individual retailers (e.g., $30 at Walmart). Under the pilot program, Amazon will let SNAP recipients use its three grocery-delivery options, AmazonFresh, Prime Pantry, and Amazon Grocery, without a Prime membership.
With approximately 42 million Americans currently on food stamps, expect retailers, particularly those with aggressive digital-grocery ambitions, to compete fiercely for these low-income shoppers.
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Survey: 592 SNAP Users Talk Online Grocery
Earlier this week, Field Agent, a provider of retail-auditing, shopper research, and influencer-marketing services, posed several questions to 592 SNAP recipients*. As you'll see, we wanted to understand their attitudes and intentions toward the possibility of using food stamps to purchase groceries online for store pickup and grocery delivery.
*Field Agent surveyed a crowdsourced sample of 592 shoppers who indicated they currently use food stamps/SNAP benefits to purchase groceries. The survey was completed entirely through the Field Agent mobile app, April 22-25, 2019. Demos - Gender: Female (80%), Male (20%); Age: 18-24 (2%), 25-34 (32%), 35-44 (46%), 45-54 (15%), 55+ (5%); Ethnicity: Caucasian or some combo (78%), African American or some combo (12%), Hispanic or some combo (7%), other (5%).
Below we offer a 5-question QuickFire Q&A with the respondents:
1. From which grocery retailers do you currently purchase groceries using your SNAP benefits?
First things first.
BOPIS and grocery-delivery aside, which retailers are presently most popular among shoppers using SNAP benefits to purchase groceries?
As you can see in the chart below, Walmart is in a category all by itself.
2. How likely would you be to purchase groceries online/in-app for store-pickup or home delivery, using your SNAP/food stamp benefits?
For this question, we asked respondents to imagine the program was available through their preferred, local grocery-retailer. We informed respondents that food stamps may not be used for pickup/delivery fees, and that SNAP recipients will still be expected to meet the minimum purchase-requirements of individual retailers.
As the pie chart shows, more than half of SNAP users (51%) in our survey said they'd be "completely likely" to use click-and-collect or grocery-delivery under such circumstances.
In other words, they're game. As one respondent wrote, "Yay!! I have been waiting for this! I have wanted to shop for groceries from Walmart for delivery and store pickup but often couldn't because it would not allow payment with EBT card. I'm very excited!"
It should be noted, however, that this survey was conducted entirely through a mobile app, predominantly with smartphone owners. Thus, the sample may be more tech-savvy than the SNAP population on the whole.
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3. Why would you be so likely to purchase groceries online for pickup/delivery, using your SNAP benefits?
With, seemingly, so many SNAP recipients enthusiastic about using food stamps to purchase groceries online for pickup or delivery, the natural next question may be: Why?
We posed this question to 429 respondents who said they'd be "completely" or "very" likely to use grocery pickup or delivery, if permitted to do so through their preferred, local grocery-retailer.
Their top reason, it seems, had little to do with food stamps per se. 77% attributed their proclivity to, simply, the greater convenience. It's just easier to shop online sometimes.
Consider other reasons SNAP recipients say they'd be so likely to use grocery pickup and/or delivery:
- "I can pay without anyone seeing I'm using SNAP benefits": 41%
- "I find it difficult to shop in-store with my children": 40%
- "My health and/or age make it difficult to get out of the house to shop and/or navigate a physical store": 17%
Respondents' free-form remarks revealed still other reasons. For instance, some SNAP recipients like how grocery-delivery options can circumvent the need for a personal vehicle or spending money on ride-sharing services.
"I think this is excellent. I don't have a vehicle and I'm spending more money at times than I need to using ride-share services to get me and my groceries home."
Other respondents noted how online grocery-shopping could help them stay on-budget.
"I have used grocery pickup a couple of times and recall wishing I could pay with SNAP. One huge factor is that it helps stay on budget by cutting down on impulse purchases, things bought for cranky children by tired parents who just need some decent food..."
Clearly, our sample perceives many potential benefits of grocery-shopping online.
4. Why wouldn’t you be more likely to purchase groceries online for pickup/delivery, using your SNAP benefits?
Of course, not everyone in the survey was exactly gung-ho about using their SNAP benefits online. A total of 160 respondents said they'd be no more than moderately likely to jump on the BOPIS or grocery-delivery train, if it rolled into their town.
Their top apprehension is shared by the general shopper population on the whole, as shown in Field Agent's Groceries 2.0 Revisited report. In all, 58% of SNAP users in our survey said they don't like "not being able to pick out their own groceries." In other words, they have quality and freshness concerns with pickup/delivery.
"I'm neutral. I'd rather pick out my own fresh products."
Then there are the cost concerns, which, naturally, may be more pronounced among low-income shoppers. 44% said they see "paying pickup/delivery fees out-of-pocket" as a major deterrent to buying groceries online using SNAP benefits. Likewise, 37% said they wouldn't be able to surmount the "minimum purchase requirements," and 31% would struggle to justify the "price of products online/lack of sales."
"I would never use it if I had to pay a delivery fee. I would only use it if I met the minimum requirement for free delivery..."
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5. If you were allowed to use your SNAP benefits to purchase groceries online/in-app for store pickup or home delivery, which ONE grocery-retailer would you most prefer to use?
This question may offer a basic indication of which retailers stand to gain the most from greater—let's call it—digital access to SNAP recipients.
Here, too, Walmart appears to be in a strong position vis-a-vis SNAP users.
In conclusion, the results from this survey suggest the USDA's decision to let shoppers purchase groceries online using SNAP benefits may end up being a significant development for both low-income shoppers and the retailers seeking to serve them.
Overwhelmingly, SNAP users met the news favorably, sometimes very favorably. "I think this is excellent!," wrote one food stamp recipient, while another wrote, "It's about time!"
And with 42 million Americans currently receiving SNAP benefits, it's little wonder Walmart, Amazon, and other retailers see, potentially, a golden opportunity.
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