A customer-centric technology strategy for Naked Wines
Naked Wines’ growth over the last 2 years has been phenomenal. It turns out wine-by-post was a lockdown winner - who would have thought!? They’re now a £350m+ revenue business, with fast-growing operations in the UK, US and Australia. Historically, their technology strategy has been ‘build-first’, with the vast majority of business-critical features delivered through in-house developed systems. As the company has grown, existing systems haven’t kept pace, with tech becoming a blocker rather than an enabler. Naked Wines needed to evolve their technology platform. However, there was a lack of consensus on whether a SaaS eCommerce platform, such as Magento or ShopifyPlus, could fulfil their requirements. Would they solve a bunch of burning issues ‘out of the box’? Or, would they require a load of custom development and configuration on top?
In working with Loomery, Naked Wines wanted to take a customer-centric approach to their next generation eCommerce platform, seeking product and architectural counsel and a faster path to progress. Loomery partnered with Naked Wines for three phases of product-centred eCommerce platform discovery and implementation, covering twelve weeks in total:
Project in numbers
requirements captured as user stories
build vs buy decisions made
eCommerce providers engaged
‘Working with Loomery was easy and productive. Their experience was such a good fit that we hardly had to provide a brief. Added to that, they didn't just do the work but helped take our team on the journey with them, allowing us to retain their knowledge and approach, which was selfless.’
- David Crawford, Chief Technology Officer
Phase 1 - is Shopify right for Naked Wines!?
In the first phase, we wanted to answer this question: “could Naked Wines achieve their current and future requirements by purchasing a leading eCommerce platform, such as Shopify?”
Taking a product-centric approach, we kicked off by building a clear picture of requirements within Naked Wines before going outside Naked Wines to audit and assess eCommerce platforms.
Building a clear picture of business and user needs
To capture a complete set of requirements we analysed product journeys, absorbed existing research and collated customer insight. Speaking to 15 leaders across the business, we heard the strategic objectives for the coming years. Requirements were prioritised and we identified the ‘Quirky 12’ areas of complex and unusual requirements. CTO David Crawford talked about this part of the work on That Tech Show’s podcast.
Assessing eCommerce platform suitability
Taking our captured requirements, we drafted a longlist of 11 suppliers of industry-leading commerce platforms including commercetools, Optimizely, Kibo, BigCommerce, ShopifyPlus, Salesforce CommerceCloud, Elastic Path and others. Engaging and evaluating vendors, we scored them against captured requirements, ranking the 12 vendors and creating a detailed scorecard for each.
Conclusion: Shopify is not a great fit!
We cautioned that no single platform could achieve all the requirements, indeed the top three only achieved little over half of the ‘Quirky 12’. The other half would need to be built or solved by other systems: a content management system, promotions engine, and subscriptions service, for example, would be key.
Phase 2 - making build vs buy decisions
Through the first phase it transpired that the Naked Wines team had requirements which wouldn’t be solved by purchasing an off-the-shelf eCommerce platform.
Given some internal development was inevitable, a new target architecture emerged composed of multiple elements: best-in-class platforms which could be purchased or plugged in, plus elements it made sense to build bespoke.
Focusing on four key areas
We refocused on four areas of merchandising, personalisation, promotions and checkout in order to make build vs buy decisions.
The goal was to understand the big-ticket requirements which would make the business more effective, productive, less reliant on developer input and fully able to deliver their business plan for next 12-18 months. Partnering with Naked Wines’ Head of Engineering and Lead Architect, we spoke to business leaders to learn what was limiting their growth plans and to understand the new or improved capabilities required to meet their goals.
Through interviews and workshops, we captured 150 user stories which we grouped into 24 epic areas framed as objectives. For example:
• Simpler control over content displayed on the site
• Greater flexibility in promotion types
• Segmented and personalised merchandising
From technical workshops to build vs buy decisions
Tech workshops were held to design solutions for each objective. To make a build vs buy decision for each component we considered:
Differentiation - Does this product, feature or component give a tangible competitive advantage? Is it core to how Naked Wines differentiates?
Urgency - How urgent is it to deliver in this area?
Cost - Roughly how much would building vs buying cost?
Capability of buyable solutions - How good are products we can buy off-the-shelf? Will a purchased solution allow Naked Wines to achieve the vast majority of your requirements?
Capability of in-house team (and the opportunity cost) - Is there capacity and capability in the team to deliver this now or in the future?
Adaptability - How adaptable, flexible and extensible do we need the technical solution to be?
One example decision was a new content management system, for which we recommended ‘buy’ over ‘build’. For each key component we set next steps to get started.
To make your own build vs buy decision using our framework, try the helpful tool below.
Phase 3 - partnering to deliver next generation eCommerce
Working with the team charged with leading the company’s transition from monolith to modern, MACH-based architecture, Loomery provided product coaching and leadership for the roll-out of the new eCommerce platform.
While the ‘NextGen team’ had achieved a huge amount since their inception, they wanted support and coaching with planning, strategy and communication. Partnering with Naked Wines’ Head of Engineering, Loomery helped the team with these four goals:
1. Understanding where they are and what’s ahead - we interviewed members of the team, stakeholders and business leaders across Naked to synthesise and play back a clear articulation of the team’s current standing to the wider business.
2. Articulating their plans and strategy - we ran workshops with the team and a smaller subset of highly engaged stakeholders to define a new mission for the team and codified a clear strategy for how the team can achieve it.
3. Prioritising what to work on - we introduced decision-making frameworks and prioritised the team’s roadmap to ensure they were, and continue to be, focused on delivering the highest priority work.
4. Reporting on progress to the business - we clearly communicated the team’s purpose and set a cadence for sharing news on the delivery of value, breaking down silos and telling the success story of next generation technology to the broader business.
The target eCommerce architecture Loomery recommended was presented to the Naked Wines executive board who quickly approved and endorsed it. Implementation is underway and Loomery has recently provided support to Naked Wines’ NextGen squad, improving processes and practices, ultimately helping them achieve a faster eCommerce rollout.