Online delivery services account for a growing share of the alcohol market in Australia, currently estimated at around five per cent of all sales and increasing by at least 10 per cent per year. Online delivery services operate in an uncertain regulatory environment and there has been little research into their use in Australia.
This study surveyed a convenience sample of 528 participants aged 18 to 69 who used an online alcohol delivery service in the past month, in order to examine online alcohol purchasing.
While not a representative population sample, this study is nonetheless significant in as much as it provides the first detailed information on people who order online alcohol in Australia. There were four main delivery service types used by our participants in their last online alcohol delivery service order: bottle shops, wine clubs, specialised fast delivery, and other services (for example, purchases direct from wineries).
More than half of the respondents (59.5 per cent) reported having used bottle shops to buy alcohol online. Wine clubs (30.5 per cent) and specialised fast deliveries (such as Jimmy Brings and Uber Eats; 15.9 per cent) were also commonly used.
Participants selected convenience, value for money, product range and price as their main reasons for using online delivery services.
Specialised fast delivery orders were most commonly ordered in the evening (6pm-12am), while orders from bottle shops and wine clubs occurred mostly in the afternoon (12pm-6pm). Of concern, more than one-third of respondents aged 25 years and under did not have their ID checked when receiving their last order. Overall, 12.1 per cent received their order in person and did not have their ID checked, while a further 24 per cent did not personally receive their delivery (the order was unattended at home or they had the order accepted by someone else).
Bottle shops and specialised fast delivery services were more popular with respondents aged 18 to 29, while wine clubs were more popular with respondents aged 30 to 49. Participants who received their most recent order within two hours were categorised as ordering from an on-demand delivery service. On-demand services were provided by both bottleshops and specialised fast delivery services. Indicative of the market strength of established players, around half of all respondents receiving on-demand deliveries had ordered from traditional bottle shops like Dan Murphy’s and BWS that offer specific ondemand services, rather than from specialised and newer fast delivery services like Jimmy Brings.
In our sample, on-demand delivery orders were most popular among the youngest age group of 18 to 29 (55.4 per cent).
Of note, more than a quarter (28 per cent) of respondents who received an on-demand order stated that they would have had to stop drinking alcohol if the delivery service was not available.
Sixty-nine per cent of respondents who received an on-demand order reported consuming five or more standard drinks on the same occasion as their order. Participants whose last order was an on-demand order generally drank more heavily than those whose last order took longer than two hours. For example, 28 per cent of participants who last ordered ondemand reported consuming 11 or more standard drinks in one occasion at least weekly, compared with 10 per cent of other participants.
One in five participants (22 per cent) who ordered via an on-demand delivery service indicated that they made the order because they were over the blood alcohol limit to drive. Our data suggests that the current regulatory approaches to online alcohol delivery need to be improved. We found sizable proportions of young users receiving orders without having ID checked; on-demand deliveries being used to extend heavy drinking occasions; and the use of these services by risky drinkers.
Given the ongoing growth of online alcohol delivery in Australia, it is critical that policymakers develop appropriate regulatory processes while the industry is still relatively young and before levels of harm increase.