From Cellar to Cyberspace: A Delicate Balance for a Boutique Brand

Fogarty Wine Group chose Elkfox to bring its business into the digital world in a thoughtful, deliberate way.

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Elkfox founder Cam Gould strongly believes that any digital marketing initiative must first and foremost honor the client’s brand. This came into play in a big way when the company began to overhaul the digital presence and online marketing efforts of the Fogarty Wine Group.

Based in Australia, Fogarty Wine Group is a family-owned wine company with 4 boutique wine brands: Lake’s Folly, Deep Woods, Millbrook, and Smithbrook. It is Western Australia’s largest wine business, producing 17% of the total wine in the region. It operates its own vineyard management services and a bottling facility, and its brands are widely recognized and loved by oenophiles around the globe.

It’s hard to think of a product more steeped in tradition and ritual than wine. It’s been around for millennia, and winemakers and consumers alike tend to resist technological innovations. For evidence, recall the response of wine drinkers when screw cap closures were introduced in the ’00s. Although they were a proven solution to “cork taint” (an unfortunate name for the very real problem of sub-quality corks affecting wine flavor), many consumers rejected them on sight, associating them with cheap wines.

Nevertheless, as important as it is to honor tradition in the wine industry, it’s equally important to adapt to new ways of doing things. Screw caps, after all, eventually caught on. In that same vein, although wine buyers are well known for their love of the brick-and-mortar wine shopping experience, an increasing number of them are open to buying their wine online.

Fogarty Wine Group owner Peter Fogarty is no stranger to the tech world. He ran the Australian tech company ERG, a smart card developer, for 16 years. He knew he needed to start thinking through how Fogarty Wine Group could connect with customers online. But he also knew any change must be handled in a thoughtful, deliberate way—which led him to partner with Cam Gould and Elkfox.

Putting the people first

Fogarty Wine Group contacted Elkfox to discuss how they could modernize their approach to marketing and selling their wines nearly 3 years ago. The company’s existing websites were lackluster, and the wine club trend had made it clear that selling directly to consumers online was the next wave in the industry.

Assessing Fogarty’s situation, Cam saw plenty of opportunity—and a lot of work to get there. “Their websites were essentially online pamphlets,” he says. To their credit, Fogarty Wine Group was eager to take a big leap. “They wanted to get in there and do what they could to take advantage of the opportunities to connect with people where they are, which is often in the digital realm.”

Cam’s goal was to take Fogarty Wine Group from where they stood—which was quite literally using pen and paper to keep track of customer databases—to having a fully integrated and automated online marketing and sales program. But he knew he couldn’t simply bulldoze his way there. “Their customers are made of these very strong communities, and some of them are very traditional in their views and approach,” he says. “So moving the company to a new way of doing things had to be done in a very thoughtful and lateral way.”

Moreover, it was critically important that Elkfox take the time to gain a deep understanding of the culture and values of Fogarty Wine Group and its individual wine brands. “We don’t ever want to force anything on people,” he says. “We want to work with them and find the best possible solution for who they are. That’s the core of what we do. While we may be extremely technical and design-oriented, we are also very much about the people.”

"We create segments to communicate with customers in a way that is personal and relevant to things they actually care about. This new way of doing business has allowed Fogarty to build relationships in a way that they never could before."

A perfect pairing

For an agency-client partnership to work, there must be trust and respect between the key people on both teams. Cam found such a connection with Terry O’Leary, Group General Manager at Fogarty Wine Group. “Terry is amazing, and we worked very closely with him and his team to make sure everything we did was sensitive to the existing customers and communities around each wine brand.”

The major initiative the team pursued was bringing all of the Fogarty Wine Group brands into a truly unified online experience. Each brand would have its own unique URL and website, but users would be able to navigate between the various sites without leaving the Fogarty Wine Group umbrella site. Consumers would be able to shop for wine by browsing the wines of an individual brand or by viewing all the brands together.

The goal, Cam says, was to gently introduce fans of certain Fogarty brands to its other brands, while respecting the fact that they very likely already have a strong affinity for a particular wine. “This way, we keep everyone as one community,” he explains.

The new site allows Fogarty to track user behavior and offer incentives based on their choices—and this is where Elkfox’s expertise with Shopify and Mailchimp came in handy. “The commerce and marketing components were all created through integrations we built to fit and add to what Shopify and Mailchimp already do so well together,” Cam says.

Elkfox used Shopify to streamline and improve the user experience for wine buyers and integrated the store with Mailchimp to allow for powerful e-commerce tracking. Now, Fogarty Wine Group can segment and target customers based on their past purchasing behavior—a tool that Cam says is a game-changer for the company. “Mailchimp’s segmenting and targeting tools based on buying behavior are very valuable, and often overlooked,” he says.

Using the dynamic duo of Shopify and Mailchimp, Elkfox created a loyalty component of the website with the aim of extending, and enhancing, the consumer experience. The loyalty program not only rewards loyal customers, but it also encourages them, in a respectful way, to try other Fogarty wine brands that they may not have otherwise considered.

Last but not least, Gould and his team put together a robust and thoughtfully segmented email marketing program to keep Fogarty in close contact with its customers. “We’re using Mailchimp to automatically tag customers based on their buying behaviors, and then we create segments to communicate with them in a way that is personal and relevant to things they actually care about.”

Nearly 3 years since the start of the engagement, you might say the Elkfox-Fogarty relationship has aged like, well, a fine wine. “The process took a while, because it was so carefully considered on both sides,” Gould says. “But the response from customers has been overwhelmingly positive. Fogarty has very much broadened their market reach and contact base. This new way of doing business has allowed them to connect with customers and build relationships in a way that they never could before.”

How to Work with Boutique Brands

Digital marketers who understand the subtleties of working with boutique brands can create big opportunities for themselves. Here are few tips from Cam Gould of Elkfox on how to approach a relationship with a client who works in a boutique or craft industry.

Don’t rush things. Just because you can move fast doesn’t mean you should. In the case of Fogarty Wine Group, Cam and his team took care to “do everything sensitively and sensibly,” ensuring they understood and honored the relationship between the wine brands and their followers.

Tailor the solution. Specialty products like wine often require special solutions. Fogarty Wine Group “absolutely needed things that didn’t already exist,” Cam says. Elkfox used Mailchimp and Shopify to create a bespoke loyalty program that worked across brands and in multiple venues—from the cellar door to wine shops to restaurants.

Make it uncommonly personal. A surefire way to fail when working with a boutique brand is taking a uniform approach to doing business. Boutique brands have very specific needs and small, tightly knit teams. “Connecting with their team and understanding their concerns and their needs in a very detailed way is key,” Cam says.

Illustrations by Dana Kalnick, a Portland, Oregon-based designer and illustrator.

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