Understanding the Chasm in the Diffusion of Online Food Benefit Ordering: A Service Ecosystem Approach

Chuanyi Tang, Junzhou Zhang, Qi Zhang, Emily Fisher, Kayoung Park

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although consumers used online grocery shopping more frequently to limit exposure to the COVID-19 virus during the pandemic, the participants of some federal nutrition assistance programs lacked the option to redeem their food benefits online. Some retailers were pilot-testing online food benefit ordering for the participants of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), one of the largest federal nutrition assistance programs in the United States. Linking the administrative data from a state WIC agency with the online ordering data from a grocery store chain, Study 1 empirically estimates the diffusion of online food benefit ordering among WIC participants, examines the influence of the COVID-19 pandemic-related factors, store strategies, and individual characteristics on the diffusion process, and unveils the existence of a diffusion chasm. Study 2 is a qualitative study in which WIC participants and store employees were interviewed. A service ecosystem framework is developed to explain how the chasm was formed and non-adoptions occurred. The retrospective examination of the diffusion chasm during the pandemic provides important recommendations regarding how to cross the chasm and improve WIC participants’ food well-being.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Service Research
StateAccepted/In press - 2023


  • COVID-19 pandemic
  • WIC program
  • benefit redemption
  • diffusion chasm
  • online grocery shopping
  • service ecosystem


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