How Molson Coors is sustaining e-commerce sales post-pandemic

  • Molson Coors benefited from an early pandemic spike in e-commerce.
  • It kept sales going by making it easier to buy its beer and seltzer online.
  • He also advertises on platforms like Instacart to get his beer to appear at the top of search results.

Like many businesses, Molson Coors’ online sales soared early in the pandemic, reaching 140%.

Those boom days are over, but he managed to keep online sales going even after people returned to pre-pandemic routines.

Sara Welch Goucher, director of e-commerce for Molson Coors beer brands, said online sales increased 8% year-over-year from January to March.

“With the reopening of access to on-site vaccines etc., the fact that we are growing above two years of unprecedented explosive growth shows how this channel will remain key to consumer buying habits and there are still benefits,” says Welch Goucher.

People have moved their shopping online during the pandemic. Online alcohol sales at grocery stores quadrupled to $1.6 billion in 2021 from $441 million in 2019, according to a report by Rabobank, which forecasts sales will reach $1.87 billion in 2022.

But Welch Goucher also credits Molson Coors’ own efforts to invest in its online sales, which were virtually non-existent before the pandemic.

The company launched direct-to-consumer sites in 2020 in the UK and Canada. It grew its online sales team by 50% and partnered with vendors like Basketful, which works with businesses to allow people to shop at multiple online retailers using a single basket.

Molson Coors also increased online sales through distributors by 57% in the first quarter as they increased their e-commerce capabilities, according to the company.

The company is also launching more marketing behind its brands. It expects a double-digit year-over-year increase in the second quarter, the company said on its first-quarter earnings call.

Part of this effort has been to place the brands in the top search results on platforms like Instacart and Gopuff.

For the 2022 Super Bowl, for example, Molson Coors flooded Instacart with ads for its beer and hard seltzer to pop up when people searched for Big Game staples like chips and soda. This campaign resulted in a 50% increase in sales on Super Bowl Sunday this year compared to last year’s Big Game, Welch Goucher said.

Beyond sales growth, the goal of the e-commerce push was to let people know they could buy beer online.

Welch Goucher said only 20-30% of consumers knew they could buy beer online before the pandemic, according to an internal study. His team spread this message using email and in-store marketing, such as liquor store displays promoting online retailers that carry Molson Coors brands, and awareness is now close to 70%.

“These solutions are driving category growth,” said Welch Goucher.