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5 Must Know Alcohol Ecommerce Trends 2021

It’s fair to say that alcohol ecommerce sales benefited from the Coronavirus pandemic. 

With bars and restaurants sadly closed, and fewer people visiting stores during the lockdown, the global market for online alcohol sales increased 42% last year

As vaccines become more readily available it’s inevitable that customers will return to stores and their favorite watering holes again. However, the growth of eCommerce is still predicted to continue in 2021 and the alcohol industry can take a share of this.

Whether you already sell alcohol online, are considering adding it to your eCommerce offering, or are making a foray into eCommerce for the first time, here are 5 trends to take note of when planning your strategy for 2021 and beyond.

1. Tequila sets fire while hard seltzer dominates 

While it's true that consumers tend to stick with familiar flavors, tequila and seltzer continue to find new ways to stand out. 

Having distinct and multiple flavor options keeps things safe, yet a little adventurous. For example, White Claw sales rose 275% in 2020 with the continuous addition of new flavors. 

In turn, tequila’s distinct añejo, blanco, and reposado variations give consumers a different taste to what they’re familiar with, while also bringing adventurous drinkers to the table who are more willing to try different variations of tequila.

Are there potential positives and negatives to these trends? Will tequila solidify their position or go downhill from here?

  • The positive potential for hard seltzer is that as consumers become more health-conscious, seltzers will meet expectations and reflect consumer trends by becoming the healthier drink option 
  • The negative is the outlook of agave supply on areas of tequila production. Even though over the next five years Mexico is projected to generate the greatest incremental value in online alcohol sales, if tequila production continues to grow, we could see an increase in pricing and rarity of certain brands. 

Improving and adjusting to new ways to present tequila and seltzer such as ready-to-drink cocktail options, and creating tasty, healthy familiar flavors will prove who is going to thrive in this sub-category of ecommerce alcohol.  

2. Staying cozy at home 

As we move further into 2021, we already know that some pandemic trends will persist. 

In 2020, shifting the attention to ecommerce became a necessity to thrive in this industry for distributorsーactually, according to IWSR drinks market analysis data, the value of the ecommerce alcohol market in ten core countries grew by an estimated 40% in 2020. 

Consumers are still less likely to shop in grocery and liquor stores and with continued coronavirus safety concerns bars and drinking socially still could be off the table for many consumers.  

In a recent NPR podcast, Michael Osterholm, an infectious disease expert highlights one of the most determining risks of transmission:

“the single greatest risk factor we have for transmitting this virus is largely indoor air where we're in large crowds where we are sharing that air with the people right around us.”

Even though we will see more people rejoining the long-lost bar lifestyle, these new ecommerce consumer behaviors will continue to persistーa continued adaptation will remain as the big challenge. 

Leveraging data, adjusting to the volume thresholds, focusing on consumer favorites, as well as creating and leveraging omnichannel buying are just some of the ways to stay on top of this evolving alcohol marketplace.

3. Technological transformation drives the industry

Convenience is huge, and staying on top of the ecommerce industry in the years to come will require bigger strides in seamless technology and customization for vendors and users alike.

Drizly’s chief executive put it best when he said:

“In 2020, e-commerce and general technology adoption went from a progressive strategy to a business necessity.”

Properly adapting to technological changes and building more seamless relationships is becoming more and more of a necessity in order to stand out. Here's a couple of stats that I’ll throw your way:

  • 76% say convenience is their key priority in selecting a retailer and nine in ten will prioritize using a retail site that offers a seamless experience.
  • 81% of shoppers are looking for a frictionless, cross-device ecommerce experience. Guest checkout and having shipping details stored are top of shoppers' convenience checklists.
Ryan Reynolds Tweet Drizly Screenshot
If Ryan Reynold’s digs on Drizly, then it’s probably pretty cool

Bigger corporations are starting to take note and beginning to heavily invest in this sectorーeven Uber jumped in the game and recently acquired Drizly.

Those who use the latest technologies—think headless commerce, personalization, data analytics—to connect the dots between platform development, marketing, and new products, will put themselves at a significant advantage.

4. New connections are formed on all fronts

Similar to forming connections with local vendors and specific types of comfort foods, in 2020 customers grew closer to certain alcohol brands, vendors, and specific types of alcoholic beverages that helped them to get through the past year.   

Let’s take a look at some strong social influences on the alcohol ecommerce market and how they will shape the future and solidify connections between vendors and consumers within this sector.

Wait, we can buy alcohol online? 

According to IWSR, nearly half (44%) of American e-shoppers began buying their booze online this year. Another quote by Cory Rellas (CEO of Drizly) continues to highlight the fact that most people just didn't know they could purchase alcohol like this.

“The most significant difference in e-commerce for 2020 was simply the increase of consumer awareness as to the ability of buying alcohol online.” 

Supermarkets and their influence on alcohol ecommerce sales

Although Drizly remains a big player in the market, we're going to see grocers like Kroger, Amazon Fresh, and Walmart dominate this sector due to popularity and consumer familiarity. 

Nearly half of all online alcohol consumers have purchased something from an online grocery website or application compared to a third who have ordered from an immediate delivery service such as Drizly or Minibar.

Increased connection

As I mentioned earlier, this past year has helped to form connections between vendors and consumers. People want to buy from someone who can deliver unique experiences to them. 

Brands should be doubling down on tastings, new flavors, new ways to present their product, classes etc in order to stand out and connect with those who want to become more familiar with what they’re drinking and who is behind the brand.

The power of the influencer 

Influencer marketing will continue to play a huge role in improving overall brand recognition. Even companies with teams dedicated to driving traffic to their eCommerce site will take advantage of influencer marketing. 

The benefit of collaborating with influencers is that it allows your business to reach outside the box and connect with customers who are familiar with the influencer in order to build trust within your brand.

5. Consumer consciousness 

Appealing to customer values is key in retaining them long-term. Focusing on dietary options, as well as unique, eco-friendly packaging can help your business connect with your audience. 

IWSR research also shows that emotional benefits, particularly sensorial attributes such as refreshment, flavor, and/or lightness are of higher importance with consumers.

On the other hand, beverage companies Diageo and Pernod Ricard are starting to launch spirits in paper-based bottles and using an rPET material for packaging. 

Consciousness and awareness for what brands present and do will continue to be a huge trend throughout 2021 and beyond. Caleb Bryant at Mintel suggests that:

“Brands need to communicate to consumers why glass-alternative packaging is sustainable, as consumers are largely unaware of the advantages and disadvantages of different packaging materials.”

These trends, influenced by changes in customer wants and convenience from covid, have sparked awareness through our connections to food and drinkーadaptation is key in standing out and showing what your business has to offer.

Related Read: The Sustainable Ecommerce Handbook

Final Thoughts On Alcohol Ecommerce 

The future looks bright for beverage alcohol companies taking advantage of the ecommerce channel. 

Understanding how to act on the above alcohol ecommerce trends will help your business, startup or marketing team in their efforts to leverage this exciting new arena.

There’s certainly a lot of untapped potential, with the opportunity to sell directly and through retailers (depending on location).

If you’re interested in going it alone, a good place to start is our guide to creating the perfect ecommerce business plan. If you’re already in the midst of it and wondering how to continue boosting sales, then this gem by industry guru Colleen Romero is for you.

Find this useful? For more insights into ecommerce trends, as well as guides, technology, and generous advice from industry leaders, subscribe to The Ecomm Manager

By Liam Placek

Multidisciplinary writer, geographer, and creative with an eccentric work background. If found distressed, offer him snacks, movies and/or music. When not typing away, Liam can be found somewhere in Bogota, Colombia enjoying chorizo and fried plantains.

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