Alaska Commercial Company

Serving customers in rural Alaska through ecommerce

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The challenge

Alaska Commercial Co. operates 33 grocery and home goods stores across rural Alaska. Shopping in Alaska is unique, as customers often can’t simply drive to their local store. Customers must buy in bulk for a season and get items delivered to their remote locations via bush plane. Also, the majority of food consumed in Alaska is shipped there.

ACC asked CitrusBits to create a suite of ecommerce solutions for their customers across mobile, web, and with an admin dashboard to manage their retail business. We also needed to account for the low connectivity issues that rural Alaskan residents typically face. We also needed to ensure the platform could support payments through SNAP, the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program providing monthly funds for low-income people to buy food they need to thrive.

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The process

At the onset, Alaska Commercial had a lot of technical questions about the backend needing additional integrations and tweaking. and our engineering team answered their questions and provided strategic recommendations. We did a two-week product exploration exercise that greatly helped ACC iron out the unknowns and any doubts their team had about the scope of work, features, tech stack, and development plans.

CitrusBits designed and developed ecommerce mobile apps for iOS and Android using React Native, and a web app experience with matching features to the mobile solution. We also built a robust admin panel that allowed visibility at a high level into the ACC business, as well as order management at the local store level. Because of where ACC’s distribution points are located, often orders would need to be shipped out using small airplanes — so bush delivery was designed into the final app as an option for rural customers.

We continued to apply new requests for changes and improvements as the project progressed. The duration of the scope of this project continue to expand as it was being created. The Alaska Commercial team continues to work with us on further tool integrations and improvements that can be made to the platform.

The result

CitrusBits developed a comprehensive digital ordering platform for Alaska Commercial. Features include checkout, split payment, order history tracking, custom bakery orders, and grocery list creation. The split payment feature allows users to use more than one credit card or other payment types in a single transaction.

For customers far away from where ACC’s distribution points are located, bush delivery is now available through the app as an option for rural customers. Many Alaskan customers have expensive mobile data plans because it’s a rural area. To solve for this, we designed in a low-bandwidth option that customers can toggle on and off so that they don’t spend a ton of money using the app.

Local customers can now easily place orders online and on the app. The platform also includes local store discounts and integrates SNAP EBT transactions to ensure food security for low-income residents. Launched recently, the holistic ecommerce platform is positively changing the lives of rural Alaskans.

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