Etsy for wineries?

Dustin Godfrey

Will the Okanagan be seeing an Etsy or Amazon for wineries in the future?

E-commerce is the way of the future for wineries – especially smaller ones – according to experts at a wine workshop in Penticton.

Geoff McIntyre with accounting firm MNP hosted a seminar Thursday morning, which looked largely at direct-to-consumer sales in wineries.

"If we look south of the border to the United States, and their wine industry immediately south of us, we can usually get a pretty good impression of what trends are about to happen in Canada as well," McIntyre said. "One thing we clearly see is the importance of the ability to sell direct to the consumer for, in particular, smaller wineries."

Direct-to-consumer sales provide the highest profits for wineries, because there are fewer middlemen taking a sip of the wine profits, according to to McIntyre.

"It's relatively a more important component of the overall sales for a winery, too," he said.

DTC Wine Workshops founder Sandra Hess, who hosted an afternoon workshop at the event, said the best way to do that in the digital age is to look online.

"Consumer demand, obviously in Amazon, Best Buy, Zappos, really the pioneers with e-commerce and (it's) allowing us so much flexibility in choice with the wonderful world of online," Hess said.

"It's an interesting trend, with consumers, especially the millennial, Gen-X demographics really liking the online shopping experience, you know, really being able to connect."

Nothing quite like an Amazon-type online shop that focuses on wine has come to the Okanagan to Hess's knowledge, but she says that could be a trend soon enough.

That's a bit more difficult in California, where Hess hails from, due to stricter rules around liquor, but that hasn't meant there aren't online tools to learn about and shop for wine in the area.

"We've had some flash sites, we've had some marketplaces, where definitely you can get on and learn a lot," she said.

"Club W is a great example of a group in the United States that offers a very social online market place program, like an Etsy for wine explorers."

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