Traditionally lagging behind other sectors in ecommerce, alcohol sales via the channel shot up 43% in 2020 at the height of the pandemic.
The US is expected to lead growth in alcohol ecommerce: driven by a host of new consumers who tried ordering online for the first time during the pandemic.
Ecommerce set to take 6% share of off-trade alcohol sales
The report looked at 16 focus markets: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Nigeria, South Africa, Spain, the UK and the US.
Across these key markets, alcohol ecommerce value increased by about +12% in 2019, and then by almost +43% in 2020 during the height of the pandemic.
Ecommerce is expected to represent around 6% of all off-trade beverage alcohol volumes in 2025: still representing a small segment of sales but far greater than the 2% in 2018.
The greatest forecast ecommerce value growth will come from the US, thanks to average annual growth in the country of about +20%, which will see it become the top global market for online beverage alcohol.
China, which currently accounts for a third of total ecommerce value, is expected to expand less rapidly, but still contribute substantial value.
Online business models
Online business models for alcohol sales are becoming more diverse, notes IWSR, meaning consumers are increasingly shifting between channels and retailers according to their specific needs at any given time.
On the one hand, there is the more ‘traditional’ ecommerce – often omnichannel or online specialists – accessed via websites and used by older consumers seeking good prices and known brands and who are prepared to wait for delivery.
Also emerging, however, is the ‘modern’ app-driven ecommerce channel – often on demand or marketplaces – used by younger consumers willing to pay for rapid delivery and looking for interesting/premium brands.
Wine is the top alcohol ecommerce category in most markets: with around 40% of total ecommerce value (exceptions are China, Colombia, Mexico and Nigeria, where spirits lead the way).
However, wine's share of the market is likely to be challenged by beer, cider & RTDs: which currently account for less than a fifth of the ecommerce market but are expected to grow strongly.
“Given the pandemic and overall changing consumer shopping behaviour, it’s certainly not surprising that alcohol ecommerce is growing very quickly,” said Guy Wolfe, Strategic Insights Manager, IWSR Drinks Market Analysis.
“But what’s interesting is to see the significant variations that have developed both across and within markets in how different consumer groups shop via ecommerce and what their priorities are.
“Ecommerce has clearly become engrained for many consumers, cementing its place as the third sales channel for beverage alcohol purchase.”
Around a quarter of alcohol drinkers across the globe report buying alcohol online, with two-thirds having made their first purchase pre-pandemic.
China has the highest proportion of online shoppers among all beverage alcohol buyers, at nearly 60%, and the US has the highest proportion of online buyers who made their first purchase during the pandemic (54%).