Global online sales are booming

Friday, 7. September 2018 - 10:00

Wine now accounts for 60% to 70% of online alcohol sales, according to an IWSR report published Wednesday,  5 September. China, France and the UK have the largest online alcohol sales sectors, and, of the ten countries surveyed, France and the UK are the most mature. Looking ahead, the report sees online alcohol sales in the UK and France growing by about 10% a year, over the next two years, and by 20% to 40% in developing markets.

Asked about the findings, IWSR research director, Emily Neill, who coordinated the report, said wine producers clearly need to incorporate ecommerce strategies into any development plan. “Online has double digit growth rates in most major markets, whether mature or not,” she said. “For example, in China, online sales of imported wines are a real growth hotspot.” The primary motivating factor across most markets is convenience, not price, the report found.  

In terms of market share France leads the way, with online alcoholic drinks’ sales reaching nearly 9% of total off-trade sales, worth about $2bn a year. The report attributes France’s success to the 'click-and-drive' model (where shoppers use drive-through lanes to pick up online orders) offered by major supermarkets including E. Leclerc and Carrefour. There are also over 400 specialist wine oriented ecommerce sites.

Hot on the heels of France, is the UK, with a similar $2bn in annual online alcoholic drinks sales. Here, Tesco and Asda are the leading online sellers, while sales from specialist online wine sellers, including Majestic and The Wine Society, are described as ‘fast-growing.’

On the buy side, the IWSR Ecommerce Study found Chinese consumers spend more buying alcoholic drinks online than any other nationality. Current sales values have reached $6.1bn and growth is expected to continue by about 15% annually. Online sales in China are dominated by two companies, Tmall and JD, which together hold 70% of the market.

In the US, online sales are growing rapidly, from a small base of only 1% of total off-trade sales, driven by greater consumer demand and a slight easing of state and federal alcohol sales restrictions.   

Looking at purchasing frequency, the study found it to be generally low, with China and the UK being the only countries to see over 50% of consumers buying online once a month or more.

The report noted that Amazon is filling gaps in markets where existing retailers have been slow to move online. In Germany, for example, Amazon already attracts more than half of online buyers.
Sophie Kevany