Until the coronavirus pandemic, most consumers had largely ignored going online to purchase alcohol. Now, many people have woken up to the convenience of getting items delivered straight to their door. In a statement announcing the deal, Drizly said it has experienced more than 300% growth in the past year. Drizly CEO Cory Rellas told The Wall Street Journal last April he expected the pandemic to accelerate online sales to as much as 8% of all alcohol bought from retailers, up from around 2% share at the time of the interview.
“By bringing Drizly into the Uber family, we can accelerate that trajectory by exposing Drizly to the Uber audience and expanding its geographic presence into our global footprint in the years ahead,” said Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber’s CEO, in a statement announcing the deal.
Unlike Uber, which has a team of drivers to move consumers or deliver food through its Uber Eats app, Drizly doesn’t actually deliver alcohol. Rather, it uses its software to connect shoppers to retailers or liquor stores, who then coordinate delivery of the product to consumers.
With the merger, Drizly immediately gets access to thousands of Uber drivers to deliver beer, wine, spirits and other alcohol. It also gives the alcohol delivery service a way to more rapidly expand into new markets by tapping into Uber’s presence in U.S. cities and potentially overseas. This convenience and broader reach could attract more retailers looking for another channel to use to connect with consumers, further cementing Drizly’s reach in this niche segment. For Uber, tying Drizly to its Uber Eats app could lead people to use both services more frequently.
U.S. consumers are still willing to treat themselves with alcohol during shelter-in-place, according to Nielsen. Nearly 75% agree they expect to pay more for a delivered spirit than in a retail store. Still, even as consumers eventually return to drinking alcohol outside the home, the pandemic has likely attracted them to using e-commerce platforms like Drizly or Minibar to receive beverages on a permanent or semi-permanent basis. Many of these consumers would otherwise have been unlikely to use the service or would not have tried it for a few more years.
“Alcohol consumption as a whole is looked at very differently now,” Reid Greenberg, executive vice president of digital and e-commerce at Kantar, said last year. “Those people who have adopted to e-commerce have realized it’s much easier, and these companies have paved the way to make it much easier to facilitate e-commerce orders. The pipes have been laid and they’re not going to lie dormant.”
Founded in 2012, Drizly reported last April that sales were up nearly 400% over baseline, or what is typical for this time period. Much of this growth comes from an influx of new customers, who accounted for 27% of orders compared to a usual rate of 15%.
The $1.1 billion purchase by Uber amounts to a bet that home delivery for alcohol will continue even after the coronavirus has abated. While more consumers were gravitating online to purchase items even before the pandemic, alcohol had lagged other consumer goods. Now, buying habits have undoubtedly changed permanently — with few categories seeing as much of an acceleration in demand as purchasing alcohol online.