Case Study

The Path to Purchase of Alcoholic Beverages in an Ecommerce World


In 2020, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic quickly changed the way that most consumers purchased their consumables in the US, in turn changing the way that retailers offered their products. Out of necessity, the market saw a sharp rise in online ship-to-home shopping, home delivery services, and even drive-up fulfillment. As the pandemic’s effects evolved, consumers ventured back into the marketplace, but many of the offerings of virtual shopping had become a habit for consumers who adopted new e-commerce practices while in quarantine.

The marketplace had changed in a short period of time, and our client, a well-known manufacturer of alcoholic beverages, asked C+R to help them understand the extent to which habits and preferences of alcohol shoppers had changed in the e-commerce world. We developed and executed a multi-stage research plan that addressed the company’s objectives and recommended tactics to optimize the company’s e-commerce channel strategies and build effective sales stories with its retail partners.


Identifying a Potentially New Path to Purchase

Prior to the pandemic, this client conducted an extensive e-commerce study, but it was clear that consumer adoption of virtual shopping in the packaged alcohol category had seen dramatic changes in that short period of time. The company wished to gain greater insight regarding the pandemic’s lasting effects on alcohol shopper behaviors and attitudes in order to help its retail partners succeed and to anticipate the changes to the company’s future channel strategy.

Specifically, the client asked C+R for help in better understanding:

  • The evolved profile of online alcohol purchasers
  • Differences between online retailer consumer bases
  • Projected continuation of online purchasing behaviors
  • Product mix of alcoholic categories being shopped for and purchased online
  • Purchase path of online alcohol purchasers (vs. in-store)
  • Levels of barriers to online alcohol purchase adoption
  • Drivers of consideration to online alcohol purchases


Multi-phase Qual + Quant Fits the Bill

We addressed our client’s objectives via a multi-stage research program that included both qualitative and quantitative phases.

First, we conducted qualitative research using an asynchronous online discussion to understand the breadth of consumers’ attitudes and shopping mission influences, including a “real-time look” into the experience of shopping for and purchasing alcohol online.

Then, we leveraged a broad-based online quantitative survey to provide dimension to the potential attitudes and behavioral trends unearthed in the qualitative phase. The metrics in this phase helped gauge the prevalence of varied factors, examine underlying sources and causes, and prioritize recommended actions based on likely impact.

The result

A Roadmap to Optimize an Omni-Channel Strategy

The research confirmed our understanding that the online consumer profile for alcoholic beverages had indeed shifted, with a growing base of shoppers who had made their first online alcohol purchases since the pandemic’s start.

Using both the qualitative and quantitative research, we were able to characterize the distinct profiles of different emerging shopper cohorts based on the types of alcohol they purchased (and cross-purchased online), how shoppers were currently using eCommerce, what actions our client could take to optimize an omni-channel strategy, and key elements for effective sales stories to share with retail partners. Ultimately, the study provided a basis of insight that shaped the client’s channel strategy in the face of a dynamic market.

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