Buying Liquor Online Remains Relatively Uncommon

Purchasers tend to be young, like those who buy groceries digitally

March 13, 2017

Among Americans who buy alcoholic beverages regularly, online purchasing is still relatively rare.

A survey by The Harris Poll in November 2016 found that 68% of US internet users ages 21 and older purchase alcohol at least a few times per year. Of those, only 12% had made an online alcohol purchase in the past six months, most often of wine (42%) or spirits (35%).

Among total adults of legal drinking age, the proportion who had purchased digitally was just 8%. Not surprisingly, wine was the most common purchase.

This level of digital purchasing is similar to general grocery shopping habits: A Cowen and Company study completed in December 2016 found that 12% of US internet users purchased groceries online last year.

The Harris Poll found that those who had purchased alcohol digitally were distinctly different from those who purchased only in-store—across several demographic categories.

Digital purchasers were younger—with an average age of 39, vs. 49 for in-store only buyers—and skewed male (77% vs. 49%, respectively). Geographically, they were more likely to be from the Northeast (31%), whereas the in-store buyers were most likely to be from the South (34%).

Digital sales of alcohol can be complicated by age verification and delivery challenges, but the younger skew of digital buyers seen in the Harris Poll suggests there is growth ahead.

Indeed, that would parallel expected shifts in general online grocery buying. The Cowen and Company study found that those under 45 were considerably more likely to make grocery purchases online. The study also found considerably more internet users overall were likely to try digital grocery buying in the future. More than two in 10 said they were likely to purchase groceries online, compared with the 12% who had already done so.

eMarketer expects food and beverage ecommerce sales to rise 16.9% this year, totaling $11.42 billion. But at that level, ecommerce will still make up less than 3% of total food and beverage sales.

Track the data of individual grocery stores in the companies database of eMarketer Retail. Individual retailers tracked include Liquor Stores N.A., The Kroger Co., Safeway, Publix and Ahold

Photo credit: Flickr