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While buying alcohol online provides the convenience shoppers like, more than half report missing the in-store experience, according to a survey by Chase Design.

Walmart leads retailers in shopping experience for beer, wine, spirits

Customers prefer shopping in-store over online for alcoholic beverages, survey reports

Almost 90% of all beer, wine and spirits purchases in the last year were made in-store, and that number is expected to rise post-pandemic, according to new research by ChaseDesign, a human-centered design agency. Customers still prefer shopping in-store vs. online because they enjoy being in control of their experience and want the ability to browse, the report concludes.

The ChaseDesign Beer, Wine and Spirits Shopping Trends survey also reports that while buying alcohol online for pickup at store and home delivery levels increased dramatically during the pandemic, it is now experiencing a decline. During the pandemic, 40% of consumers reported buying alcohol online, but that number is down to 35% now, and trending toward the 30% pre-pandemic levels. 

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“The results of our shopper survey certainly support the need for both online and in-store as part of an overall solution in adult beverages. But overall omnichannel strategies should recognize shoppers’ preference toward in-store, and be mindful of the trade-offs online purchases mean,” said Joe Lampertius, president at ChaseDesign.

Walmart ranked first among retailers providing the best overall experience for beer, wine and spirits, at 38.6% of consumers surveyed. It was followed by Target (25.4%), Costco (21.3%), liquor retailer Total Wine (19.5%) and Kroger (17.4%) among the top five chains. Independent liquor stores performed strongly, right behind Walmart at 34.6%.

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Lampertius suggested that the strong showing for local independent liquor stores certainly isn’t due to selection, lower prices or one-stop-shop convenience but instead “the power of localization and trust in store associates — often the most undervalued asset at retail.”  

When shoppers buy alcohol online, the top fulfillment method is through home delivery, different than most other consumer product purchases. Hence, customers ordering alcohol online often result in a lost trip to the store. And when shoppers choose to pick up online orders at store, only 13% report also shopping for other things when they go to the store to pick up. This is substantially below the 50% of shoppers who report going into stores for additional purchases when buying mainstream groceries.  

Of those consumers who purchase beer, wine and spirits online for delivery, DoorDash was the no. 1 service chosen (by 35.8% of respondents), closely followed by Instacart (33.0%) and Uber Eats (32.1%); others ordered directly from retailers online (32.1%) or through wine subscriptions (30.0%).

While buying alcohol online provides the convenience shoppers like, they report missing the in-store experience, with 53% saying they enjoy seeing beverage choices in person, 42% reporting they like to pick up products to learn more about them, 41% saying it’s easier to discover new brands in-store and 37% indicating they like the overall atmosphere in a store. And critically, 35% commented that store associates who know about options and choices are missed while shopping online.

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“The online buying experience isn’t one that tends to deliver inspiration, discovery or emotional satisfaction,” Lampertius noted. “In fact, it’s all about convenience.” And after convenience, the top reason reported by shoppers for buying alcohol online is a desire to stay safe, with 44% of shoppers buying online for pickup at the store so they can “limit potential exposure to COVID-19.” Lampertius added that as the pandemic continues to recede, this powerful motivator will diminish, likely followed by still more in-store shopping.

 “The future of shopping is neither digital nor physical stores, but rather the convergence of digital and physical in a retail shopping environment that truly makes the customer journey more enjoyable and productive,” said Lampertius, who pointed to survey findings that show 25% of respondents use a retailer’s app most of the time or always when shopping and another 23% use it at least sometimes. “And the retailer’s app is where shoppers go to expand the experience and possibilities of the physical store,” he said.

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