Consumers Prefer Buying Alcohol In-Store

The on-premises experience is key for many consumers trying to discover new tastes.

August 03, 2021

Beer on Shelves in Store

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—For most consumers, in-store shopping for alcohol wins out over online orders for beer, wine and liquor—even during a pandemic, according to new research by ChaseDesign.

In-store accounted for nearly 90% of all beer, wine and spirits purchased in the past year, according to the survey by ChaseDesign, a Skaneateles, N.Y.-based human behavior strategy and design firm. And that number is expected to rise post-pandemic.

The ChaseDesign Beer, Wine and Spirits Shopping Trends survey found that customers still prefer shopping in-store vs. online because they enjoy browsing. Nearly 40% said in-store is the only way they buy their favorite libations.

Among online shoppers for alcohol, the preferred fulfillment method is home delivery, which is different than most other consumer product purchases. At the same time, only 13% reported also shopping for other things when they arrive at stores to pick up online orders.

Shoppers agree that purchasing alcohol online is convenient, but they miss the in-store experience, as 53% said they enjoy seeing their beverage options in person. Forty-two percent also reported that they like to pick up products to learn more about them, while 41% say it’s easier to discover new brands in-store. A little over a third of consumers, indicated they like the overall in-store atmosphere while shopping. Plus, 35% said they appreciate store employees who know about options and choices, a benefit missing from online commerce.

When it comes to favorite shopping spots, survey respondents named Walmart No. 1 in providing a positive alcohol-purchasing experience. Independent liquor stores ranked second behind Walmart, with Target, Costco and Total Wine filling out the top five. The strong showing by independents reflects the power of localization and trust in store associates—often an undervalued asset in retail, the report noted.

The survey found that while buying alcohol online for pickup and home delivery increased dramatically during the pandemic, it’s now experiencing a decline. Forty percent of survey respondent reported that they bought alcohol online during COVID-19, but that figure has fallen to 35% now and is trending toward pre-pandemic levels.

The report noted that the future of shopping is neither digital nor physical stores, but rather the convergence of both in a retail shopping environment that makes the customer experience enjoyable and productive.

To read more about how some retailers are pivoting to satisfy consumer cravings for alcoholic beverages, read “Beyond Beer” in NACS Magazine.