Richard Hemming MW: harnessing cyberspace

At school, I was the kid who rushed through work to get five minutes playing Granny’s Garden on the classroom computer at the end of the lesson. In an era when neon legwarmers were trendy and Hock was posh, this clunky puzzle was the height of gaming technology - press spacebar to continue” felt like an invitation to the future.

Every generation since has grown up with computers embedded into their daily lives, yet many wine businesses are still ignoring what online technology can offer. As someone whose wine career has depended on the internet, I am continually staggered when Googling a wine retailer to find no official presence. 

What follows is a guide to how every wine business can take advantage of the online world.

Social media

Having some degree of social media presence is as fundamental to a customer-facing business as having a phone number. At the very least, it can serve as a proxy website, providing an official record of the name and contact details for your company.

Facebook, Twitter and Instagram offer different advantages to different audiences, but the critical point is that they can provide potential customers their first encounter with you – especially if you don’t have a website. Whether you are a local convenience store or a London merchant, it is indisputable that you need to take ownership of this interaction.

Twitter is a discursive platform, Instagram is more like a photo broadcast channel, while Facebook provides a platform for more detailed engagement. All three are free, and accounts can be set up in minutes. Understanding how they work may take time, but there is no valid reason not to try, at least.


Perhaps many off-licences see websites as an expensive and time-consuming luxury they can ill afford. It’s true that good ones are not free, and the best examples can require significant investment. But websites are a necessary evil.

For true technophobes, you can outsource the establishment of a basic webpage with your own bespoke dotcom address for less than £500. A mobile-friendly single page site with a photograph, contact details and a brief description is the bare minimum.

It’s cheaper to use a service such as Squarespace, Wix or Weebly, although such self-build platforms do demand a certain degree of technological knowhow. Alternatively, there is, as the phrase goes, an app for that.


Partnering with apps such as Vivino or Mr Vine gives any wine retailer the opportunity to sell via mobile devices – though doing so profitably may not be as straightforward. Otherwise, apps are far less important than other channels mentioned above.

Every self-respecting wine business needs to manage their online presence these days. Take heed of the advice above - and press space bar to continue.

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