There is a conundrum in this time of COVID-19. While you’re supposed to shelter in place, you also want to support local businesses by getting groceries from your area market. But at least in our town, the local grocers don’t have online ordering or delivery. As a result, I turn to the big retailers (with decidedly mixed results).
But as with so many other segments of food tech landscape right now, startups are stepping up to help. Mercato is an online platform that enables independent grocery stores to have their own e-commerce and delivery operations. The Mercato platform takes care of all the order management and processing as well as online marketing, and connects stores with an independent network of 100,000 delivery drivers across the country.
Last week, Mercato launched a rapid on-boarding process with reduced setup fees that promises to get indie grocers online and selling in 48 hours. And yesterday, Mercato announced a partnership with wellness data company SPINS to provide stores with a more robust and customizable online shopping experiences.
I spoke with Bobby Brannigan, CEO of Mercato today, and he said that Mercato launched 20 grocers on its platform yesterday, and will launch another 40 stores today. By the end of this week, Brannigan said Mercato will be serving more than 1,000 stores.
“We help independent grocers compete,” Brannigan said, “They’re dealing with a massive surge in volume, it’s absolutely insane.”
The partnership with SPINS will integrate SPINS’ expansive product database into the Mercato system. This will allow independent grocers to broaden search and profile capabilities based on product attributes and nutrition content. For example, shoppers could search a corner grocery store on Mercato and filter products by items that are gluten-free or keto-friendly.
Though pricing depends on the number of stores and volume, Brannigan said that for the time being, Mercato has cut its setup fees in half, and that a subscription for it software starts at $349 a month.
As we’ve said before, the coronavirus outbreak is forcing the food industry to speed up the adoption of new technologies. Perhaps Mercato can be a lifeline to mom and pop grocery shops struggling to survive this outbreak, and create a great alternative for those of us stuck at home that want to shop locally.