UK’s serious thirst for alcohol online

Brought to you by Retail Insider and K3 Retail

Despite the continued reduction in alcohol consumption in the UK (yes, it’s true, and it’s partly driven by Millennials’ lessened thirst for booze) the country is a leader in terms of sales made online – having the highest level among European consumers.

Recent research from Profitero shows that 21% of consumers in the UK have bought alcohol online compared with a global average of only 8%. The country’s closest European rivals are Germany (14%), Italy (11%) and France (10%). The UK is in fact beaten only by the unusual pairing of China (27%) and Japan (22%).

Cans to the home…

One of the key drivers behind this is not particularly surprising; it’s the ongoing shift of sales from physical stores to online. This has been fuelled by the emergence of myriad home delivery and click & collect-type options that have enhanced the convenience of buying alcohol online.

More interestingly, there are a number of factors that are specific to the alcohol category. Some of which are ironically driven by those booze-lite Millennials. The most obvious one is that the grouping is now of drinking age, aided by the increased spending power and the fact they have grown up with the internet.

This grouping is also primary consumers of challenger brands – this includes many craft beer brands – which are often tough to find in stores. These brands also frequently have big online presences through significant amounts of sharing via social media. Often these, potentially cult, brands punch way above their weight in terms of the levels of exposure they garner across digital channels compared with their often modest levels of sales.

Such activity can lead to significant, often unexpected, demand for certain beers – and also increasingly gins – from an audience of aficionados and it is the specialist online stores that are frequently the only places where these items are available.

One such operator is Hop Burns & Black that has built a reputation for obtaining hard to find beers and runs a single unit in South East London. However, it has found that its online store has quickly built sales to a level where it represents around a quarter of total turnover as a result of it giving the company much greater (potentially global) reach.

This reputation has enabled it to tap into another driver of sales of alcohol online – subscription bottle box schemes, whereby members receive a regular box of different beers. These can be determined by the retailer or involve a more tailored selection as determined by the preferences of the customer.

It’s clear that despite the logistical headache of shipping heavy, and prone to breaking, bottles of beer through the postal system, the UK has a rather (un)healthy thirst for buying its alcohol online.

Glynn Davis, editor of Retail Insider

K3 Retail deliver multi-channel solutions that enable retailers to create joined up shopping experiences for their customers whether they choose to buy on-line, direct, in-store or via mobile. It has over 20 years’ experience delivering award winning solutions, to more than 175 internationally recognised retail brands.