Reinvent the antiquated wine shopping experience by featuring curation, video, and speed to checkout

UI, UX, Visual Design, Project Manage, Web Dev


For years, I’d wanted a way to sell friends the exceptional wine deals I came across in my various wine ventures.

I had a small, but eager audience that valued my taste and often asked me to sell them wines. So I’d throw together cases of my favorite stuff and sell it to friends for fun. I loved providing them the same excitement I got from finding an extraordinary and underpriced bottle.


As a product designer, I naturally began to think in those terms. Could I build an app that let me scale my just-for-fun sales to a wider audience? What would that look like?

I also had to consider my priorities. Why this product? How can I differentiate and innovate? I narrowed it down to these motivations:

1. To bring my personality to online wine shopping. 

2. Give customers an ultra-fast wine shopping experience on par with retailers they love. 

3. Demystify and educate about wine as part of the customer’s journey.

And what about the potential user? What do my customers care about when shopping for wine? What appeals to them about my offering? And consumers in general. What do they want and expect? Where is the e-commerce hockey puck going?

I interviewed my existing customers to see what is was they liked about my offering and what they wanted from a wine shopping experience.

Here’s what I found:


Paralyzed/intimidated by large wine selections

Don’t have time to browse wines extensively

Like learning more about wine when they have time


Customers expect fast, seamless checkouts

On-device notifications still capture outsized attention

Video becoming vital step in customer journey

I discussed motivations at length with my just-for-fun customers. Over and over I heard, “I want to learn more, I just don’t have the time.”

So I felt that I understood the customer’s motivations and needs. And on the human nature level, I was also keenly aware of the following:

Key UX consideration:
Wine is an impulse buy – 90% consumed within 24hrs of purchase

Speed to checkout is crucial

UX priorities

The UX challenge was combining my priorities—speed and personalization—with my customers’ priorities—ease and demystification.

And I had to address the impulse shopping priority, i.e. how to attract attention and then quickly close the sale. I can’t have customers abandon ship because they have to go looking for a password or credit card.

It became clear that to achieve the above in a meaningful way, the following were essential:

Instant checkout. To achieve Amazon-like checkout speed, off-the-shelf web apps were out. They just aren’t built for it (due to PCI compliance issues, ostensibly, and more likely the desire to control/brand instant checkouts. Talking to you, Shopify Pay!).

Device-level alerts. Obviously necessitate a native app.

Extremely simple browsing interface. Easier said than done.

Small product selection. Easy.

Educational/storytelling video tightly integrated with browsing. Nothing off-the shelf features video at the browsing screen. Despite the meteoric ascendancy of video, at best it remains an afterthought among popular e-commerce platforms.

Going native

There was no other way to achieve the speed and customization I needed.

My dev team and I scoped a React build that would allow flexibility across platforms. For the back end, we would build on top of a RoR app that we’d previously built. It also had existing users that would cross over to Tom’s Wines, so those accounts and authentications could be retained.

I designed a custom CMS with straightforward admin GUIs for wine details, images, prices, inventories and videos.

Design time

For UI, UX design, I took inspiration from the overall speed and simplicity mandate.

For example, upon launching the app user would immediately browse wines. Then, without leaving that screen they could view wine details, watch video content about each wine, add/remove wines from cart, and proceed to instant checkout screen.

That means customers could have wines on their way within three taps. The entire shopping sequence could take 3-5 seconds.

And with deep links to the app from email and social campaigns, installed users could go from reading about an offer (see: impulse shopping) to instant checkout with just four clicks.

Here you can see the immediate transition from email to shopping in-app:

Here you can see how I designed around the key priorities:

Simple browsing

Integrated video

Instant checkout

Watching the data 

I use Mixpanel for analytics, which I hooked to every key event in a user’s journey. I launched the app in Spring 2019 and early stats have been enlightening like:

  • 99% tendency to scroll to the bottom of wines, suggest to me that the wine selection certainly isn’t too long and could possibly be longer.
  • With incredibly few dropoffs (less than 5%) from the purchase sequence, I’m pleased that the speedy checkout format is working as intended.
  • A less than expected 30% of sessions watching videos jives with many user reports that they didn’t even notice the video play buttons! Shocking to me, but you can’t argue with your users and the data! I’m testing the color and prominence of play buttons to address that issue.



5 month revenue w/no marketing


Customers repeating

Bottom line?

Since launching the app in late Q1 2019, the app has generated over $50K in sales and, more rewarding to me, it has a 65% repeat customer rate.

It’s as fun, passion-project side-gig with nifty tech, and I’m happy with the progress.

Check it out here!


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