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Wine Spectator: Who Buys Wine Online?

November 6, 2014

Online wine sales have been increasing in the United States at double-digit rates for the past five years. But that doesn’t mean they’re a major part of the industry yet. More than 80% of wine is sold in grocery stores, wine shops and other brick-and-mortar outlets, according to Nielsen. “Wine remains under-penetrated online at less than 2% of all U.S. wines sales,” said Michael Osborne, founder and vice president for merchandising at Wine.com. A new study by researchers at California Polytechnic University in San Luis Obispo sheds some light on the small but growing community of online wine consumers.

Based on a survey of consumers, researchers discovered that online wine buyers are more likely to be male, over the age of 40, married with children and have a higher household income. They also tend to be wine connoisseurs or enthusiasts and spend more on wine than non-online buyers. (An e-mail survey was sent to 3,000 wine purchasers with a 31% response rate; 23% of respondents had purchased wine online.)

When these consumers buy wine online they are generally seeking higher quality wines from recognized appellations and have a preference for family-owned or small wineries. They are also quite tech savvy and are more likely to use phone apps or tablets to research wine information. But these online wine consumers do not use Facebook, Twitter or blogs any more than non-online wine consumers. Surprisingly, Millennial consumers of legal drinking age currently purchase very little wine online, even though they grew up with the Internet. The researchers discovered the main reasons were that Millennials think shipping costs are too high and would prefer not to wait for a wine shipment.

Though online wine sales currently constitute a small percentage of industry volume, most experts agree that the channel will continue to grow, especially with Amazon entering the arena in 2012 and large wine retailers such as Total Wine and BevMo expanding their web presence. Wine Spectator has more on the Cal-Poly study and the outlook for online wine sales in the U.S. market.


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