An unexpected side effect Covid-19 has been the way the virus has changed our shopping habits. As most traditional retailers were forced to close for a period, it opened the way for us to seek out efficient, contact-less ways to spend our money. Even the supermarkets that remained open had long queues outside, so many shoppers chose to go online rather than stand in line.  And even when the liquor retailers were able to open – many still chose to shop from the comfort and safety of home.

This hasn’t just happened here in New Zealand but is a global phenomenon. We may not have been hit as hard by the pandemic as many other countries, but since Kiwis are typically early adopters of new technologies, we have been quite comfortable clicking our way from store to store.

A recent report by Chris Wilkinson, Managing Director of First Retail Group and released by Westpac, highlighted how Covid-19 has introduced a whole new wave of digital consumers to online shopping. Wine sales reflect a similar story with Winesearcher observing how online alcohol sales in the U.S. rose an estimated 40 – 60% for the week ending March 21 – right at the beginning of the lockdown.

Yet not all products responded the same way. A study by eommerce solutions provider ‘Big Commerce’ reported that while food and beverage sales were up 7.2% during the pandemic, categories like cameras and equipment, for instance, fell by 64%. The question is, with traditional stores now reopen, will we simply revert to our traditional shopping habits? Beverage Analyst Bourcard Nesin at Rabobank believes the shift to online sales is a lasting one. UK Business magazine The Economist predicts that the pandemic will energise our adoption of new technologies and businesses will escalate their transformation into the digital economy.

Ecommerce experts worldwide are predicting that grocery shopping will continue to grow online. We have been steadily going that way for years and Covid-19 has simply accelerating the change. Of course, many businesses will always need physical contact, from hairdressers to physiotherapists, but even doctor’s appointments are now being conducted online, so who knows how many more ‘traditional’ retailers could soon change.

While traditional shopping is a case of what you see is what you get, the dynamics are different for online sales. Brands are more important than ever so that people can trust products they cannot see or try. Fortunately, customers have easy access to product information and customer reviews to help guide their decisions. In the case of wine purchases, you can quickly access reviews with a few clicks.

Does that mean tasting events are in jeopardy in this digital world?  If the enterprising efforts by certain wineries is any indication, maybe not. Lawson’s Dry Hills conducted a wine tasting online in early May over the radio as Mike Graham of the UK’s Talk Radio spoke to Master of Wine, Nick Adams. An online tasting by another winery recently gave customers the chance to purchase the wines online for delivery before the event, then join the winemaker’s webinar on Zoom. Such events allow us to still enjoy tastings without having to resort to a taxi ride home.

Along with webinars and virtual business meetings – virtual tastings and online brand experiences are continuing to grow and attract large numbers. Look out for the next tasting coming to a screen near you!

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