Shut the Gate Wines owners Richard Woods and Rasa Fabian

Shut the Gate Wines owners Richard Woods and Rasa Fabian.

Shut the Gate Wines are a small wine producer who specialise in single-site and best of region grape varieties for their wine batches. Owners Richard Woods and Rasa Fabian have two cellar doors – one in their home town of the Clare Valley in South Australia and the other in the Snowy Mountains in New South Wales where they offer wine tasting and food experiences.

Prior to receiving their digital transformation, the business had initially operated with a limited digital presence, but Richard and Rasa recently turned their attention to prioritising digital tools to help build upon their business’ success and assist in future growth. The pair knew what they wanted to achieve but they just needed the time, expert digital advice and suitable vendors that would meet their needs. Shut the Gate Wines’ business goals were to increase customer reach and sales, and impart wine knowledge by educating its target demographic. To achieve this Richard and Rasa needed to develop a website that would allow them to sell wines online, create a subscription based wine club and also increase their social media presence.

Pivoting during COVID-19

Shut the Gate Wines needed to adapt the way it operated throughout the coronavirus pandemic. The Clare Valley Cellar Door was required to close, but in March 2020 the business re-opened its Snowy Mountains Cellar Door as “Shut the Gate Little Grocer” – a one stop shop for the local community to purchase basic grocery staples as well as gourmet food, beer, spirits and of course, wine.

Little Grocer not only kept the business operating during this time, but opened the doors for a wider customer-base and expanded retail offering. Shut the Gate Wines used its social media channels – Facebook and Instagram – to keep customers and the local community up to date about its operating arrangements.

The business was able to triple its sales and significantly increased its brand awareness, making Little Grocer a must-stop destination for tourists on their way through to the snow as travel restrictions ease.

Selling online

Richard and Rasa knew they needed to launch their online store to remain competitive and sell their products to a wider consumer-base – not just their loyal locals.

"COVID has changed our view. We had a face-to-face consumer based model, and now see the value in online shopping; we know it’s the way people want to shop nowadays" Richard says.

In late May 2020, Shut the Gate Wines launched its website and started to sell wines direct to customers around Australia.

“Currently the website is really simple as we just wanted to get the shop open and active as soon as we could. We’re looking forward to working more on the website and integrating more of the back‑of‑house functions” Richard says.

Shut the Gate Wines invested in a commerce platform called WithWine, designed specifically for wineries to support its back-of-house processes. The platform is integrated with their website and has enabled:

  • e-commerce functionality so customers can easily and securely purchase wines for direct delivery to their door
  • tailored Customer Relationship Management (CRM) which allows customers to keep track of wines they have tried, liked and purchased. This helps encourage repeat sales as past transactions are saved for customer ease and the business can gain valuable data on its clients’ preferences
  • Point of Sale (POS) system integration so staff can scan products using their mobile devices or barcode scanners
  • mailing list membership to keep customers up to date with business news and direct market special offers
  • Wine Club subscriptions

Spreading the word

With Richard and Rasa’s input and direction, WLKR Digital developed a digital marketing strategy to help the business increase its reach.

“Working with good communicators was fantastic, and receiving a strategic plan that was logical and concise means that we are clear about what we need to do next for our marketing.”

To increase their brand awareness and in turn, customer sales, Shut the Gate Wines worked with two established Adelaide businesses that feature and promote the best of South Australia through online, print and television channels. By connecting with Adelady and the Adelaide Review, Shut the Gate Wines have been able to put themselves in front of thousands of consumers, who previously may have been out of their reach. This has helped the business increase its social media following, with a 73 per cent increase in followers on Instagram and 46 per cent increase on Facebook over the last 12 months.

“Even though both our cellar doors are now open to the public, we’ve taken the success had during COVID‑19 to expand our offering and keep the Little Grocer running. We’re even developing the concept for the Clare Valley and have hired a new staff member to manage PR. This wouldn’t have happened before.”

In moving to a digital platform and implementing their digital marketing strategy and new website, Richard and Rasa developed a greater understanding of how digital is an integral part of the business and the need to invest in your staff.

With a lot of digital processes, you do need specialist people in your business dedicated to it. Before, we couldn’t afford to have people solely working on these, but we now can see the value, so training people in-house is a must.

Richard Woods and Rasa Fabian , owners of Shut the Gate Wines