By Megan Harman
As Canadians increasingly embrace the convenience of online shopping, one e-commerce retailer is trying to encourage consumers to add wine to the list of items that they order online rather than buying in store.
WineOnline.ca, a Toronto-based online wine distributor, aims to expand the selection of wine available to Canadians and deliver it to their doorsteps.
The company was launched in 2004 by Aaron Bick. After having lived in the U.S. for several years, where he became accustomed to buying many things online – including wine – he was disappointed upon his return to Ontario to find that similar services weren’t available. Bick also found the selection of wines available in Canada to be limited.
“I was sort of distraught at the lack of choice and the lack of service and the lack of knowledge surrounding wine,” says Bick, founder and CEO of WineOnline.ca. That prompted him to launch WineOnline.ca, and in the years since, the e-commerce company has grown significantly.
The company’s target customers include busy professionals who enjoy the convenience of having wine delivered to their doorstep, as well as wine collectors in search of specific wines that aren’t available in local liquor stores.
Canadians have been relatively slow to adopt online purchases of alcohol, Bick says. Compared to other developed countries, he notes that a far smaller proportion of alcohol sales in Canada are conducted online.
That’s in part because in provinces such as Ontario, alcohol was – for many years – almost exclusively available through government entities such as the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO). Many consumers still aren’t aware that other purchasing channels are available, Bick says.
“It takes a really long time to change behavior,” he says.
With the LCBO having recently introduced an online sales channel, however, there is growing consumer awareness of the option to purchase wine and other alcohol online, Bick says.
“It brings legitimacy to what we do,” he says.
In addition, as consumers get accustomed to buying many of their other goods online, Bick says a growing number of shoppers are showing interest in ordering wine through this channel, as well.
“The convenience factor is big,” Bick says. “As people get busier and busier, this will become a more attractive alternative to people.”
Although the LCBO’s new online sales channel presents a new competitor for WineOnline.ca, Bick says his company provides a vast selection of quality wines that aren’t available through the LCBO.
“Almost none of what we sell is available at the LCBO,” Bick says. “Almost everything we bring in, we represent exclusively. That’s a big selling point.”
The company sells wines from many different regions around the world, including Europe, Australia, South Africa and South America, among many others. WineOnline.ca’s top-selling wines are from Spain, according to Bick.
Another factor that sets WineOnline.ca apart from its competitors, Bick says, is service. The company strives to educate clients on the wines available, and for clients who aren’t sure what to buy, customer service representatives are available to help them choose something based on the types of wines they like.
“We try and provide as much information about each wine as possible, so clients can learn about the wine before they buy it,” Bick says. “We allow people to be the wine hero in their group of friends.”