Designing Europe’s No.1 Craft and Special Beer Platform

Beerwulf is an e-commerce website that sells craft and special beers from over 600 breweries across Europe. It aims to provide a unique and engaging online shopping experience for beer lovers and enthusiasts.

Among the first members of the team, I designed the MVP version of Beerwulf, as well as several improvements and extensions of the platform over time. My role involved continuous product discovery, conducting user research, creating wireframes and prototypes, testing and validating designs, and measuring user behavior.

Challenges

The main challenge of designing Beerwulf was to create an e-commerce platform in a market that was mostly offline before, meaning that buying beer online was not a common practice for most consumers. Therefore, we had to find a way to convince users of the benefits and value proposition of Beerwulf, and to make them trust and enjoy the platform.

Some of the specific challenges that I faced were:

  • How to tell the story of breweries and their products in an appealing and persuasive way?

  • How to showcase the variety and quality of the products?

  • How to create a seamless and intuitive browsing and checkout experience for users?

  • How to handle the logistics and delivery issues that come with working with small and independent breweries?

  • How to balance the user needs, stakeholder wishes, while keeping the conversion up?

Product Discovery

To tackle these challenges, I followed a user-centered design process that consisted of four main phases: discover, define, develop, and deliver.

Creation of a Minimum Viable Product

The foundation of a company marks the beginning of its journey, and it's a critical moment that sets the stage for the company's future success.

In this phase, I aimed to create understanding the problem space, the user needs and pain points, the market opportunities, and the business goals. I conducted various research activities, such as:

  • User interviews: I interviewed potential and existing customers to learn about their beer preferences, shopping habits, motivations, frustrations, and expectations.

  • Competitive analysis: I continuously analyzed the strengths and weaknesses of other freshly forming online beer platforms (including the country’s No.1 supermarket chain Albert Heijn), as well as other e-commerce websites that offered similar or complementary products.

  • Stakeholder interviews: I collaborated closely with different departments, such as marketing, sales, product management, content management, customer service and logistics, to understand their vision, requirements, and constraints for Beerwulf.

  • User insights: Based on research findings, I created user personas & empathy maps that represented the main segments of our target audience. We used these to guide our design decisions throughout the project. Using Hotjar, Mouseflow & ContentSquare I could deliver comprehensive studies on user behavior.

Continuous improvements

In this phase, I aimed to synthesize research insights into actionable design goals and solutions. I conducted various activities, such as:

  • Affinity mapping: I used affinity mapping to organize our research data into meaningful themes and patterns. I also identified gaps and opportunities for improvement in the current user journey.

  • User stories: I delivered numerous user stories that described the features and functionalities that users wanted or needed from Beerwulf. We prioritized these stories based on their value and feasibility.

  • Information architecture: I defined the structure and organization of the content. I used card sorting and tree testing methods to validate it with users.

  • User flows: I mapped out the steps and interactions that users would take to complete their tasks on Beerwulf. I focused on optimizing the add-to-cart and checkout flows to reduce friction and increase conversion.

Collaborate & Develop

In this phase, I aimed to create low-fidelity and high-fidelity prototypes of my design solutions. I conducted various activities, such as:

  • Wireframes: I created wireframes that showed the layout and hierarchy of the elements on each screen. The application of choice for this was Sketch as the primary design tool.

  • Prototypes: I created interactive prototypes that simulated the functionality and behavior of our design solutions. I used InVision for low, & high-fidelity prototyping.

  • User testing: We tested our prototypes with users to gather feedback and validate our assumptions. We used various methods, such as usability testing, A/B testing, eye tracking, heat maps & journey analysis (using ContentSquare)

Deliver & Present

In this phase, I finalized design solutions and hand them over to the development team. Activities included:

  • UI design: I applied visual design principles and guidelines to our prototypes. Later on these tasks were taken over dedicated UI designers.

  • Design system: We created a design system that allowed the consistency and scalability of solutions.

Becoming Europe's market leader in the craft & special beer market

Achieved within 2 years, built from ground up, Beerwulf has become Heineken's first profitable e-commerce project.

Takeaways

Through this project, I grew as a designer, leader and I experienced working on a major e-commerce project.
Product discovery A-Z
Managed to deliver a large-scale project and be involved in every steps in the process to become a market leader
Creating innovation
Led the initiative to drive innovation across the organisation, including: implementing dynamic split testing for product pages & newsletters improving conversion rate, designing solutions to bundle products and reduce damages during delivery, and redefined the on-boarding process for small breweries. These efforts not only streamlined operations but also led to an increase in partner engagement and improved customer experience.
Efficient stakeholder management
Learned that continuous stakeholder management, communication and involvement of collaborators are key to succeed
Designing, & leading a team
Had to chance to grow as a team lead, show grant a good example and mentorship to my team

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