A major objective of any eCommerce solution for your customers is to make it as easy as possible to do business with you online. That means removing or reducing friction points, workarounds and manual processes in order to keep shoppers engaged and satisfied throughout the shopping journey.
For many retailers, the absence of simple systems to process online SNAP payments has been a major friction point in their overall eCommerce strategy. Fortunately, leading eCommerce suppliers are now rolling out online SNAP to automate this important checkout process.
However, technology availability is only one of several important steps required to approve and implement online SNAP in your store. There are steps that both your store and your eCommerce vendor will need to complete to qualify for approval.
SNAP and the USDA
SNAP is short for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, a program administered by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). SNAP provides nutrition benefits to supplement the food budget of needy families so they can purchase healthy food and move towards self-sufficiency.
Because it is a government-administered program, USDA has established a formal approval process that retailers must complete prior to going live with online SNAP in their stores. Here are the four key steps required for full approval:
Step 1. Apply for Approval with FNS - Food and Nutrition Services
FNS is the government agency that oversees SNAP and the online SNAP approval process. This step is completed in two parts:
- Review the requirements and ensure you have in place each of the items outlined. There are three go/no-go requirements, followed by a number of additional detailed requirements. The go/no-go requirements are:
- Store is located in an approved state
- Already accept brick & mortar SNAP
- Have a website capable of accepting online SNAP. There are a number of detailed requirements associated with this item.
- Submit a letter of intent. When you are satisfied that you meet all the requirements outlined, prepare a letter of intent addressed to the FNS pilot program stating that you are ready to begin the final approval process.
Retailers using the ShopHero platform can contact their account manager for assistance with the letter of intent.
Complete details of the FNS process and requirements are available here:
Additionally, FNS conducts weekly educational calls for stores working through the approval process to answer questions and troubleshoot roadblocks.
Step 2. Set Up an Online SNAP Processing Account with FiServ
FiServ is the payment processor approved by FNS for Payment processing for SNAP. They are the only approved processor, and you must have a valid account to proceed with the FNS approval.
You will submit an application with FiServ, and then be required to successfully link to their processing site. When your application is approved, your account is set up, and the link is proven, you will be given a set of digital credentials that will be required in the next step. This will also initiate creation of a FiServ mailbox on your system for processing and reconciliation files.
More details on this step are available on the Fiserv website: https://www.fiserv.com/
Step 3. Integrate with Your eCommerce System
The next step is for your eCommerce vendor to integrate with the FiServ payment processing system. This is where the digital credentials mentioned above will be used to connect the systems securely.
At this point, eCommerce vendors such as ShopHero and FNS will conduct a kickoff call with your store to check the system and make sure the website is compliant with state laws. This includes details such as ensuring all items that qualify for SNAP payments are marked as such when they are displayed online, bottle fees and bag fees are handled appropriately, and many other details.
Your vendor should walk you through this process and ensure that everything is in compliance before proceeding to the final step.
Step 4. Obtain Final Approval from FNS
The last step is a final walk through of the system with FNS, store management and your eCommerce vendor. This will be a virtual meeting facilitated by FNS.
During this meeting the FNS representative will test the system and identify any deficiencies. You will be given an opportunity to remediate these, and then schedule another walkthrough with FNS. You will repeat this process until they are satisfied the system meets all requirements, and they give a final approval.
There is it in a nutshell. While the process may seem somewhat burdensome, with the right eCommerce vendor by your side, it can be a relatively painless experience and will set your store up to efficiently and accurately process these important payments for many years to come.
ShopHero is introducing online SNAP processing as part of our eCommerce solution. We are assisting stores in navigating the approval process and upgrading their systems as needed to provide a reliable, compliant system when the solution is fully approved and available.
ShopHero is a pioneering leader in ecommerce and fulfillment solutions for the grocery industry. Our Retail Success Platform provides everything independent grocers need for personalized grocery retail success, including modern, white-labeled web and mobile eCommerce, omni-channel Shopper Engagement, and affordable turn-key Point-of-Sale solutions. Our logistics technology enables independent grocers to cost-effectively provision home delivery services without a substantial investment in either technology or delivery infrastructure. For more information, visit shophero.com