There’s an old bit of wisdom that selling alcohol is always a good business model. In good times, people love to celebrate! When things aren’t so great, they look for an excuse to drown their sorrows.
But, with the rise of the internet, it seems a waste to only have your product on the shelf of the store around the corner. What about selling alcohol online? After all, pretty much everything else is just a few clicks from being delivered to your doorstep.
The good news is that the selling alcohol online laws are starting to match up with our technological level.
All alcohol brands should be ready to jump on this growing market opportunity to get a head start on competition.
How To Start an Online Liquor Business
Before discussing how to start an online liquor business, we need to address the elephant in the room. The first and most obvious step to selling alcohol online is that you need to have an alcoholic beverage product to sell.
Assuming that you already have a product, you’re going to want to plan out a solid marketing strategy for your alcohol brand. This should complement your overall business strategy and can include items such as:
- How will you spread the word about your alcohol brand?
- Will you have a strong online presence?
- Do you want it to be sold online? In stores? In bars/restaurants?
- How will your brand be perceived?
- How will you measure the success of marketing campaigns?
The list goes on and on…
As you can expect with selling alcohol online, the business model is only part of the process. One of the most important aspects has to do with licenses and laws.
Selling Alcohol Online Laws
Times are changing and the selling alcohol online laws are catching up with our eCommerce-based society. However, we still live under the rule of the three-tier system, so it’s not as flexible as many of us would like.
In order to follow the selling alcohol online laws and remain three-tier compliant, there are a growing number of companies that are designed specifically to integrate with your site. These can be built into your current website, or an entirely new site can be created (even if you don’t already have a site, which you definitely should!).
Some examples of these companies are:
Please note that we don’t specifically endorse any of these companies, and as with all website and eCommerce situations, the best solution depends on your goals. We’re happy to help you figure that out!
Do You Need A License To Sell Alcohol Online?
If you’re wondering what license is required to sell alcohol online, the short answer is that it varies, especially considering there are different laws in different locations. You will obviously need the necessary business licenses to go along with your alcohol business itself.
The good news is that if you integrate with the type of company we mentioned above, the process is likely to be more straightforward than you may expect.
Also, selling alcohol online can take different forms, and have different requirements:
This is what we’ve been primarily focused on there, and where we have seen a lot of success when helping our clients. The major benefit of this is that it allows you to reach a much larger customer base by shipping your product to anyone within the geographic area you serve.
The major legal issue to focus on is making sure you’re compliant with the three-tier system. Also, from an operational point of view, you need to make sure you have product availability and can ship things within the expected timeframe.
This applies to you if you have a local business, such as a bar, restaurant, or tasting room. Another option that really picked up during the COVD-19 pandemic was using third-party delivery services to offer delivery to those in your local area. This was primarily made possible by local governments adjusting laws to loosen the restrictions.
In order to do this, you need to understand the laws in your city and state. If it is allowed, the main benefit is that it may not require many changes to your business model that are different from what you currently do. From a legal standpoint, you need to have the appropriate licenses to sell alcoholic products to consumers. You can work with Uber Eats, DoorDash, or something similar. Again, we’re here for you if you’d like help figuring out how to set all this up.
The major downside to this is that you can only serve those in your local area, and it may even discourage people from coming to your establishment to eat, drink, and be merry.
This is essentially a mixture of eCommerce and local delivery. Again, this requires you to have some sort of physical business address, and the ability to already sell and serve alcohol. It allows customers to purchase your alcoholic beverages directly on your site, and then come pick it up from you (or potentially use a local delivery option).
This again is heavily reliant on local laws, and it restricts growth to that of your immediate surroundings. The largest benefit from this is that it can make you look more advanced than your local competitors, and help you stand out.
Necessities for Your Site
There are a few things that every alcohol eCommerce site needs to take into consideration:
- Age restriction: Your site should require visitors to acknowledge that they are of legal drinking age before visiting.
- Location-based shipping: Laws vary not only depending on where you’re selling from, but also where the buyer is located. This means you should limit sales to geographic locations where you’re sure you’re complying with all legal regulations.
- Age verification at checkout: You’ve already done a check that your visitor claims to be of legal drinking age when arriving to the site, but you need to verify with additional proof at the time of sale.
A lot more should go into your alcohol eCommerce strategy, but those are a few key differences from selling many other types of products.
So, Can You Sell Liquor Online?
Yes! It’s getting easier every year, and you should absolutely be working it in to your business strategy. It’s very possible that most of your competitors will be jumping on the bandwagon over the next few years, so why not get a head start?
If you need help managing this – anywhere from deciding on a strategy, better defining your brand, or technical implementation, we can help!
We’re a digital marketing agency offering everything you need to grow and develop your brand, and we have a lot of experience specifically focusing on alcohol brands.