US Online Alcohol Sales Reach USD 2.6bn: The 2020 Alcohol E-Commerce Playbook

Rabobank estimates that US online alcohol sales reached USD 2.6bn in 2019, growing by 22% YOY. Alcohol sales in online grocery and alcohol marketplaces, the most important channels for future growth of the industry, grew by 115% and 60%, respectively. Despite the strong growth of e-commerce sales, the penetration of the online alcohol category remains abysmally low, and alcohol’s share of food-and-beverage spending drops by 88% online, compared to its share of wallet in brick-and-mortar stores. The industry must take assertive action to address the challenges facing alcohol e-commerce. A failure to act could have profound consequences.

Report summary

“Alcohol brands are losing billions of dollars in online sales opportunities every year, and they are missing a critical opportunity build digital relationships with millions of omni-channel consumers,” according to Bourcard Nesin, Beverage Analyst with Rabobank. “If alcohol companies are not able to effectively participate in the online ecosystem, e-commerce could become a wedge that separates alcohol brands from their consumers.”

Rabobank has produced robust estimates for the total value of the US online alcohol market, but we must offer them with a warning: companies cannot base their investment in e-commerce solely on the value of online sales today. A brand’s online presence plays a critical role in driving sales in more traditional channels. Beverage companies must consider digitally-influenced sales, the future size of the alcohol e-commerce market, and the annual value of lost sales opportunities when deciding how much to invest in their e-commerce operations. Actual sales are only the tip of the iceberg.