Photo courtesy of Mercato.

Photo courtesy of Mercato.

Since the first stateside coronavirus case was made public weeks ago, San Diego-based Mercato, an online grocery e-commerce fulfillment platform for independently owned grocery and specialty food stores, has seen a surge in merchants wanting to join the program. As a result, the company’s sales have increased 500% since February, according to Mercato’s Founder and CEO Bobby Brannigan, who said he and his team of approximately 30 are setting up roughly 20 new stores per day these days.

“As one can imagine, businesses are trying to rapidly adapt to these times, especially with more and more customers buying groceries online,” said Brannigan, adding that his 900 national merchants are usually too small for similar services like Instacart. “For independent groceries, if they don’t get on the web, they won’t get much cashflow… Mercato helps independent grocery stores by providing an operating system to better manage their stores.”

The platform allows mom-and-pop shops to better manage their inventory, to sell products online (via the Mercato website as well as the grocer’s own site) and to offer same-day delivery within the hour, said Brannigan. In addition, Mercato offers product recommendations on what to sell in store among other operational services, he said. In a time of social distancing and shelter-at-home orders, it is important that grocers be equipped to better service their customers with a personalized online fulfillment solution, Brannigan added.

Partnership with SPINS

To his point and in attempt to ramp up the existing platform, Mercato recently teamed up with SPINS, a Chicago-based wellness-focused data and technology provider, to launch a more complete product attribute-powered online grocery e-commerce solution, said Brannigan. He said while his program offers limited data, SPINS, which already works with thousands of grocery stores across the country, has a more detailed product attribute database for enhanced performance. The collaboration is scheduled to effectively launch in the next few weeks.

For example, SPINS breaks down all health and wellness attributes for each product, said Brannigan, which enables people to filter their search by Keto, gluten-free, allergies and a slew of different keyword options that better cater to consumers’ dietary restrictions and needs. SPINS also provides nutritional facts and ingredients of all the products for more transparency, he said.

“SPINS comes with a robust database, which is tremendously stronger than what we have,” said Brannigan. During the coronavirus pandemic, it is even more important for independent grocers, which are usually well-stocked and know what their respective communities like, to expand their reach and their services, the company added.

Better Meet Consumer Needs

Mercato, which has about a dozen merchants already set up in San Diego, has a starting fee of $299/month, said Brannigan, and is getting e-commerce stores up as fast as 48 hours once they’ve received product lists from storekeepers. Brannigan said Mercato provides all the delivery staff through courier partnerships with Doordash and Postmates, as long as the grocer picks out and bags the groceries.

“Independent grocery stores need an e-commerce platform even more these days as these types of services add more value,” said Brannigan, who is originally from Brooklyn, New York, and received his bachelor’s degree in science and management from the State University of New York. “People like to be specific when they shop and they want to purchase products that meet not only their needs but their family’s needs.”