DRINKS Tech Aims to Enable Alcohol Sales for Any Business

Beyond just integrating alcohol purchasing into grocers and liquor stores’ digital platforms, beer wine and spirits eCommerce provider DRINKS is bringing its technology to merchants entirely outside the beverage category.

This week, the company announced the sale of its direct-to-consumer (D2C) business to focus on scaling its technology, and in an interview with PYMNTS, Zac Brandenberg, the tech provider’s co-founder and CEO, spoke to the opportunities for expanding beer, wine and spirits eCommerce.

“The bigger prize to us as always been the largest deployment of our … beverage-as-a-service platform, which enables essentially any business to be able to be an alcohol business,” Brandenberg said. “One of the things that we’ve done … with businesses like Thrive Market and Imperfect Foods and Macy’s is we’ve worked to enable them to be able to carry alcohol as a product category where they did not before.”

The company sold its Wine Insiders D2C arm to Full Glass Wine Co., a D2C wine brand acquisition and management firm, which earlier this year purchased Winc.

Alcoholic beverage eCommerce has been a challenge for merchants, given the complex regulations imposed on the category, which vary from region to region, and as such, for providers that can solve these difficulties, there is plenty of unmet demand.

Overall, eCommerce demand for alcoholic beverages has grown in recent years. A 2021 PYMNTS Intelligence survey of nearly 2,000 U.S. consumers found that 49% of consumers reported purchasing alcohol online for same-day delivery more since the pandemic began, and 48% said the same of buying alcohol online for delivery at a later date.

In fact, Brandenberg does not just see the possibility for beer, wine and spirits eCommerce to expand to non-beverage merchants such as Macy’s — he sees the chance for it to become so common that even individual influencers can sell alcohol from their online shops.

He sees the opportunity “to be able to weave in alcohol products, which is a high-margin, high-demand category, into creator storefronts and influencer storefronts.”

Indeed, there is demand to purchase beverages via social channels, according to The PYMNTS Intelligence study “Tracking the Digital Payments Takeover: Monetizing Social Media Edition,” created in collaboration with Amazon Web Services, which draws from a survey of a census-balanced panel of nearly 3,000 U.S. consumers.

The report reveals that, among the 14% of shoppers who purchased a product through any social media platform, one in three had purchased a food or beverage product. This makes food and beverages the third most popular social commerce category, behind beauty and apparel.

Brandenberg described this category of alcoholic beverage sellers as the “fourth tier,” a term that also includes alcoholic beverage aggregators such as Drizly, a phrase that comes from the three-tiered system that has historically regulated alcoholic beverage sales, where the first tier is producers, the second is wholesalers, and the third is retailers.

“The fourth tier is really the connectivity between the alcohol industry and those that are not already in it but have eyeballs and customer loyalty,” Brandenberg said, “and connecting those dots is really the massive opportunity ahead.”

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