Alcohol has been popular for thousands of years, but a new trend is emerging in how consumers shop for it.
The summer after I graduated high school (1989), I worked at a neighborhood liquor store where my duties occasionally included taking out the delivery van. Customers would phone in their orders, usually in the late morning or early afternoon. Typical deliveries would be for one large bottle of hard liquor, and let’s just say I would often leave with the feeling the customer would need a new bottle by the next morning.
Delivery of wine, beer and spirits has changed tremendously in 30 years. Now, mainstream retailers including Walmart and Kroger provide online alcohol delivery in as little as an hour, assisted by omnichannel platforms such as Instacart and Drizly. Almost every week, it seems I write another article on another regional or national chain introducing online delivery of adult beverages. So why has alcohol delivery transformed into a mainstream feature of omnichannel commerce?
First, the nature of many alcohol purchases lends itself to the online/on-demand model. Alcoholic beverages are often a short-notice buy. A friend may unexpectedly drop by, or a party may turn out to be larger than anticipated, or you may be asked to host a social occasion at last-minute notice. With a tap on a mobile app or a click on a website, consumers can keep the beverages flowing without having to leave their own party.
Also, having someone else drive your adult beverage purchase to you is often the wisest and healthiest fulfillment choice. A party running low on beer may not feature a large number of guests who should be taking their car out to the nearest liquor store. On-demand delivery helps keep our roadways safe.
It is also worth keeping in mind that despite the seemingly endless array of social media memes celebrating drinking for almost any occasion, many consumers may still find purchasing alcohol at a store to be a little uncomfortable. I’m a native of Massachusetts, where liquor stores are colloquially called “package stores,” or “packies,” in reference to the fact purchases are packaged in brown paper bags so nobody knows what you’re buying. A discreet on-demand delivery minimizes the chance that your neighbor, clergyperson, or child’s teacher will see you acquiring your beverage of choice.
As the holidays approach, more retailers are rolling out or expanding their on-demand alcohol delivery options. I will raise a glass to their success, as soon as my cabernet sauvignon order arrives.