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Has Covid-19 changed online drinks shopping?

Lewis Bowen asks if the meteoric rise in online sales during the Covid-19 pandemic represents a permanent market shift

Lewis Bowen Babco UK

As we start to feel the “normalising” of life after the impacts of Covid-19, we have to ask – will consumers who flocked to online shopping stay plugged in or revert to old habits?

Currently in the UK, more than £1 in every £10 is spent online. However, August saw the first indication of a decline in direct-to-consumer sales as people returned to traditional retail (Neilsen Scantrack). Now, as the festive period approaches, online is expected to bounce back with Black Friday signaling the start of the Christmas spending frenzy.

Clearly, Amazon has written the rules for online retail and, as a high-growth business, Babco has taken full advantage of the opportunities it presents.

Year-on-year we are achieving growth of over 500 per cent on Amazon alone, and as we become more skilled in the best way to operate within the platform's infrastructure, we expect this upwards trajectory to continue. 

What Amazon presents is an effective way to get products in front of consumers and as marketing within that space becomes easier, we expect that this channel will continue to be an important one for savvy businesses seeking to drive market share.

A close eye must be kept on the rest of the online market, which is also presenting growth opportunities, with the introduction of challengers such as, Snappy shopper, Getir and Fancy. These new contenders are taking on the Amazon model with backing from traditional retail. 

The grocery multiples are also not to be ignored as they have invested heavily in their online retail functions and are showing signs of real innovation. For example, within beers, wines and spirits, Tesco has introduced “Tap Room” and “Whisky Cellar” concepts to help people discover new drinks and suggest how to drink them improving occasion segmentation, premiumisation, and taste profiling. 

While Babco always had an online strategy, pre-Covid our focus was on bricks and mortar retail with online as a secondary strategy. However, as these traditional routes closed, we, along with many other brands pivoted to online to drive growth.

18 months down the line, online has become an even bigger part of our strategy and we have learnt a great deal during this time. As we emerge from the pandemic, Babco sees this as an opportunity to really drive online sales. Premium products are always going to find it more comfortable online as they can tell their story better moreover a straight price comparison, which is why our focus will be firmly on the premium end of our portfolio. 

There has never been any doubt that online is here to stay, but to be successful it is not enough to simply list products and hope they will shift. The transition to e-commerce will bring a new set of challenges centred around digital transformation - but if you can embrace these opportunities, the impact on your business can be truly transformative.

5 November 2021