This persistent pandemic has changed consumer habits. Ecommerce has grown substantially in all areas of the economy, including beverage alcohol. Operating under the specter of the virus, customers have embraced digital delivery, curbside pickup and online alcohol sales.
Drizly, a pioneer in digital alcohol delivery, has watched this unfold with an analytical eye. The company recently released its 2020 Consumer Report, which studies how COVID-19 has impacted American alcohol shopping trends. The report’s data comes from a survey earlier this month of around 15,000 legal-drinking-age adults. For a deeper dive into the findings, we recently spoke with Liz Paquette, head of consumer insights at Drizly.
Beverage Dynamics: What trends jumped off the page in your recent consumer report?
Liz Paquette: Obviously there was a major increase in online ordering. We believe that this will remain consistent moving forward, at least through this year. 51% of respondents said that they were shopping for alcohol online.
Another trend we saw is that cocktail culture has taken hold. Without on-premise sales, mixers, bitters, liqueurs and cordials are all selling well. More than half of respondents said that they had made more cocktails at home during the past several months. 54% said that they would continue doing so. People have built out their back bars at home and got that initial experimenting over with, and have become more comfortable with making their own cocktails.
BD: Did anything from the report surprise you?
LP: Hard seltzers in particular. We had 38% of people answer affirmative that they would drink hard selters this year, with 31% answering ‘maybe’. That was not as strong of an answer as we thought for hard seltzer going in. Though that might just be because of overall uncertainty right now in the market.
51% of respondents admitted to drinking hard seltzer last year. So if you consolidate the responses for ‘yes’ and ‘maybe’ for 2020, then you still get a higher percentage of folks who said they’d drink it this year than last year. And the category is still seeing growth in terms of new users. There’s just a lot of uncertainty, overall, right now.
BD: When the pandemic first hit, consumers reached more for macro brands. Has this trend continued?
LP: Macro brands are still thriving, but there’s also been a pretty sizeable surge recently in independent brands. Beer, in particular. We get the sense that people want to support local. For instance, lagers are typically our number-one seller in beer, but ales have jumped in front in the last few months.
Overall, macro is still our top-sellers — in spirits and wine, the macro brands are at the top — but we still over-indexed in craft.
BD: So craft brands are recovering?
LP: We saw craft begin to accelerate back in April. People were obviously nervous about going out in general, but ecommerce afforded them the ability to browse craft products again, online and on social media, in the comfort of their own home.
BD: Another early pandemic trend was consumers stocking up. Has that continued?
LP: We definitely saw the initial stocking up, at shocking levels. Since then, the overall order size has remained large, despite the ebbs and flows. We think that’s because consumers are diverting more of their purchasing to online. They’re using Drizly to stock up for the week.
It’s going to take a certain comfort level for people to begin going back to the on-premise. At Drizly, we obviously believe that there is plenty of room in the sandbox for us all, off- and on-premise. But we found that even as people said they were going to go back to on-premise, they’re still planning to consumer the same levels at home — if not more.
BD: It’s hard to imagine that consumers will stop shopping online post-pandemic.
LP: If nothing else, the last three months made it clear that there is now a diversification of commerce long-term, and that this is not just a blip. Across all consumer categories, people now expect to be able to open up their phone and purchase something and have it delivered to their doorstep.
We’ve been fortunate to be in the position to help lots of retailers keep open their doors and have those online sales. It’s important for businesses to meet their customers where those customers are, and that’s increasingly online.
Kyle Swartz is editor of Beverage Dynamics magazine. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @kswartzz. Read his recent piece What Alcohol Consumers Are Buying, Months into COVID-19.