For the most part, this has been a good thing. Delivery apps provided relief to local businesses amid stay-at-home orders and minimized the need for human interaction.

Now that the pandemic is waning, it's clear that alcohol on-demand is here to stay. Many of the loosened laws that made it possible are becoming permanent and delivery apps are striking record deals to seize the market.

Earlier this year, Uber acquired Drizly for $1.1 billion in stock and cash. Vivino, GoPuff and Instacart have raised substantial backing from investors who are betting big on the market's future. By any measure, this industry is the one to watch.

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Investors have been pouring money into alcohol delivery apps, with funding in 2021 already nearing 2020 levels globally. (Source)
 

Underage drinking on the rise

Before we raise a glass to alcohol delivery, though, we need to do more to promote responsible drinking and protect the vulnerable. The easier it is to access alcoholic beverages, the greater the risk of misuse and abuse – as evidenced by recent research.

In the US, apps were found to routinely let minors order alcohol. ‘’There have been instances in which the licensee’s own employees have done so, but a far greater rate has been evident among third-party delivery services,’’ a report by California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control stated.

There’s more. In Australia, a reported 61% of users were already intoxicated when they received their order. And in the UK, charities are calling for tighter rules on firms they claim are making drop-offs to children under 18 and problem drinkers.

The pressure is high on these apps to make every reasonable effort to verify users’ age when selling alcohol, as failure to do so may lead to hefty fines and closures.

But it’s not easy. Apps must navigate a maze of regulations that are often unclear and dated. For instance, while it’s prohibited to sell alcohol to underage drinkers, it is still unclear where and how exactly ID checks should happen – at the time of purchase, at delivery or both.

Plus, most couriers are working zero-hour contracts, and in a rush to move onto the next order don’t bother verifying users' age. Some even leave drinks on the porch as if it were any other contactless delivery.

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Verifying users are old enough to drink is still one of the biggest challenges facing alcohol delivery apps.
 

Age gates are not enough

Better steps need to be taken to verify users are old enough to access age-restricted products and services. Relying on users to enter their date of birth into a web form or tick a box to prove they’re over a certain age limit doesn’t cut it anymore.

Instead, the more progressive alcohol delivery apps now feature ID scanning to help drivers carry out age verification checks more quickly and reliably. A driver simply scans the user’s ID at the door and gets notified if the document holder is of legal age to purchase alcohol. 

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Drizly and GoPuff have all rolled this feature out. They’ve implemented BlinkID — a mobile SDK for ID document scanning — into their apps to quickly capture key information from ID cards, driver licenses, and other government-issued identity documents. This is helping them:

  • Deliver alcohol in a safe, contactless way: With BlinkID, drivers are able to scan a user’s ID document at a safe distance, and the document never changes hands.
  • Verify a user's age. BlinkID displays a warning message if the document holder is underage. The limit can be set depending on the country's minimum legal drinking age.
  • Get up and running with no training. Drivers who may not be tech-savvy can still use BlinkID without any issue. The average time to scan takes less than 2 seconds.
  • Keep user data secure. The SDK works offline, on-device, and the personal information never leaves the app. This also means the scan will go through even if the user is located in a remote area with no internet connection.
  • Check the validity of a document. BlinkID weeds out forged and expired documents whose sides don’t match or contain incorrectly formatted data.
  • Match the ID with the document holder. As the driver is scanning the document, BlinkID snaps a clear, high-resolution image of its owner's face. A driver can then easily check that the person to whom they’re handing the alcohol matches the photo of the person on the ID.
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Done right, ID scanning can be a simple, secure and scalable way of ensuring alcohol deliveries are never handed to minors. 

The future of the industry is promising, and is likely to be propelled forward by those who remain reluctant to venture out or have grown accustomed to ordering in. To them, alcohol is always just a couple of taps away, and delivery apps have to work out better ways to protect them – and themselves.

Want to add seamless ID scanning to your app? Let’s talk.