J.C. Stock is the CEO and co-founder of Shots Box, an expert-curated craft, artisanal and small-batch spirits delivery service.
The events of the past two years have forced many otherwise active people to stay home, often for extended periods of time due to health or other personal reasons. While streaming providers and e-commerce services certainly thrived during this unprecedented time, so did another industry: food and beverage delivery.
It wasn’t just the traditional food delivery services that benefited from the increase in business either. Alcohol e-commerce also reported a steep increase in popularity. This increase in direct-to-consumer services over the past two years signifies a new age in alcohol distribution. This is especially true for craft and artisanal brands, many of which were previously overshadowed by larger corporations.
The Switch To Delivery
At-home delivery services already represented a growing sector of the marketplace prior to 2019. As lockdowns continued and people stayed home, the switch to delivery services for alcohol and spirits represented a natural progression. Statista reported a 75% increase in spirits sales during 2020, with a whopping 243% increase in overall alcohol sales in March of that same year, as many people prepared to stay home for an extended period of time.
A recent survey indicates that nearly a third of people who ordered alcohol online plan to continue with these services even as traditional venues reopen. This is because alcohol e-commerce can offer benefits beyond just the convenience of ordering online and having it delivered. For example, providers offer custom blends of the latest craft and artisanal beverages, often venturing beyond the options available locally.
Whiskey’s Increased Popularity
Forbes notes that the U.S. spirits industry is experiencing a period of exceptional growth. American whiskey and Irish whiskey have seen a surge of 6.7% and 16.3%, respectively. The number of whiskey cases sold has increased every year since 2010.
One key facet of whiskey’s growth in recent years is the increased per capita spending and, with it, a sustained willingness to pay for finer selections of spirits. Consumer optimism remains strong, as many people intend to treat themselves or otherwise splurge in their spending. For alcohol e-commerce services, in particular, this trend toward premiumization helps to sustain recognition of the value of these services even as in-person venues reopen.
Finding Success In Today’s Market
When spirits like whiskey are part of an alcohol e-commerce business, the use of small samples can allow consumers to take advantage of trends such as single barrel whiskey and sourced whiskey from the comfort of their homes. Beverage Dynamics notes the distinction between these two trends. Single barrel whiskey is crafted in just one barrel and is often used by retailers to offer consumers a unique experience. Sourced whiskey is used to fulfill current demand while a distillery’s products mature.
Companies can also use social media to influence whiskey trends. For instance, they can partner with influencers to promote their preferred brands to their followers. An increasing number of online groups have also formed, with a focus on whiskey-related culture. The increased buzz about whiskey distilleries as they shed stereotypes and promote diversity in their manufacturing processes can affect “whiskey tourism” and lead to increased traffic and onsite purchases as more distilleries return to full-service operations.
There is also a desire for a frictionless shopping experience that continues to drive the alcohol e-commerce experience, as does the availability of subscription services. Consider providing a half-year or full-year membership of online services. Additionally, offer a variety of selections throughout the year, or include a tasters club or whiskey box. I’ve observed that some memberships even integrate expert selections into their services, providing additional value to the consumer.
Ushering In A New Era
Although restaurants and other hospitality providers are returning to normal business operations, the convenience of e-commerce delivery services remains. By using alcohol e-commerce, consumers not only receive their alcohol and spirits at their doorsteps but also get the chance to try craft and artisanal brands they might not find locally. E-commerce and direct-to-consumer sales can offer the additional benefit of flexibility, allowing consumers to try different selections and hone their preferences over time. As more consumers explore these alternatives to on-premise alcohol sales, new trends will emerge, and alcohol e-commerce will solidify its place as an integral part of shaping a new era in the food and beverage industry.