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In store rationalisation means consumers are seeking out diversity online

Published:  06 June, 2019

Wine is the most frequently purchased alcoholic beverage online, it has been revealed, as consumers increasingly turn to the web to seek out the product diversity that’s been lost from the high street.

According to the IWSR, shrinking shelf space in multiples and the supermarkets as a result of range rationalisation has been one of the main contributing factors to higher wine sales online.

Food and drink accounted for around a fifth of the UK’s £70.5bn online retail industry in 2017, and alcohol accounted for 1.6bn.

Wine sits in fairly advantageous position, because according to IWSR research, wine had 60% value share of that 1.6bn, versus 25% for spirits and 15% for beer.

Wine is also predicted to be the fastest growing alcohol category for online sales to 2020, again ahead of spirits and beer.

This reflects an increasing willingness of consumers to include wine within their weekly online purchase of groceries, the IWSR said, as consumers head online for wider selection of premium products.

“Online shoppers tend to be more adventurous,” explained IWSR wine analyst, Adam Zdan-Michajlowicz. “In-store, consumers are more likely to be led by footfall drivers and discounted products. There are also things that online specialists like Naked Wines can offer that consumers wouldn’t necessarily get in Sainsbury’s.

“Online retail also offers ease of use. You don't have to trawl through the shelves. With a few clicks, it’s possible to search by colour, country of origin and style, and receive a personalised service. E-tailers are also utilising algorithms to track previous searches and find out preferences. It’s the equivalent of a local shop in the 1950s which knows your personal taste.”

However, selling wine online does have its limitations.

“We find there is much less impulsive behaviour online," Zdan-Michajlowicz added. "So whereas in store, consumers are not going to know the final price of their basket until they’re at the till, online, they can see their basket spend go up as they add to it.

“There’s also the drawback of not being able to handle the physical product. With food and drink, consumers still ideally want to physically inspect a product, and the more expensive a product gets, the more this is relevant. Online retailers are taking lessons though and are increasingly providing a composite virtual/physical experience. Now, you can click on a picture and rotate it 360 degrees, while being able to read all the details on the label.”

Sparkling wine also does well online.

When separated out into smaller categories, it was found that sparkling wine was purchased online weekly more frequently than whisky, vodka, rum, cider, liqueurs, gin, and Cognac, and came second only to still wine in first place, and beer in second.