Digital Cheer: The Rise of Online Alcohol Purchasing
It probably comes as no surprise that the pandemic, which is heightening consumer anxiety and transitioning food and beverage exploration into the home, has led to an increase of at-home alcohol consumption. As reported in a recent Washington Post article, COVID-19 has drastically changed the alcohol purchasing habits of consumers. Due to closures and pandemic-related fears, consumers are far less likely to be sourcing alcohol from restaurants and bars and are instead utilizing online platforms to have alcohol delivered to their home. Third-party alcohol delivery services such as Drizly and Minibar Delivery are witnessing unprecedented growth: per the article, “Minibar Delivery announced a 139 percent increase in sales from early March to early April over 31 markets nationwide. Drizly, the market leader, saw its sales shoot up 750 percent from March to May of this year, compared with last year’s sales …”
The jump in online alcohol buying reflects the notion that consumers are more willing than ever to procure all food and beverage categories, including alcohol, online to minimize COVID-19 exposure. For food retailers, having a good selection of alcoholic beverages has moved up in relative importance as a driver of overall trip satisfaction compared to 2017: as reported in our newly released Food Sourcing in America July/August 2020 report (which compares summer 2020 food and beverage buying behavior to findings from 2017), among 18 categories of foods, beverages and non-food items ranked by importance for trip satisfaction, having a good selection of beer, wine and alcohol ranked fourth.
While consumers may return to in-person shopping for perishable items once the pandemic subsides, the convenience benefits of purchasing alcohol online may very well be a reason for consumers to continue this behavior. To compete with these new, third-party delivery services, brick-and-mortar and online grocery retailers will need to focus on aspects of exploration and discovery relating to alcoholic beverages, including increasing variety, highlighting local breweries/wineries/craft liquor producers, staff recommendations and product narratives to engage shoppers.
Restaurants and bars should focus on the social aspects of alcohol consumption once the pandemic has subsided.