Naked Wines is the online-only wine retailer promising to deliver crates of quality vino to your front door. Carving a space as a digital-first brand in an industry most commonly associated with old-world luxury - where the age of the product actually increases its value - is not easy, and requires an interesting approach to digital strategy.
Naked Wines is owned by the UK's largest specialist wine retailer, Majestic Wine, and their business model centres on crowdfunding independent winemakers.
"They're crowdfunded in exchange for preferential prices, on some really good exclusive wines that you won't buy on the shelves," says Carolyn Jones, quality assurance manager at Majestic Wine and Naked Wines. And it's a model that has proved fruitful so far, growing their customer base to over 1 million, across the UK, US and Australia.
Without a physical presence, the brand's website acts as its storefront window, and must be appealing enough for customers to reach the checkout. As such, there is a vital need to test the website for usability and appearance, a job the brand entrusts to an in-house team and crowdtesting provider, Applause.
"The test team at Applause is made up of a global community of experienced in-the-wild testers using real devices," says Derek Hardy, CTO at Majestic Wine and Naked Wines.
"They interact on our websites exactly as our customers would in real life, but via test profiles and test payment details," continues Hardy. "This human-centric approach lets us comply with the increasing expectations of our customers, with brands only having one chance to deliver a flawless experience in today's demanding and competitive digital landscape."
"They tend to use the same pool of testers which is really good because they're getting to our system really well and we're starting to build up quite a nice rapport with the testers," adds Jones. "They're catching some really crucial bugs for us so they're keeping our key customer journeys in check, which is good."
Sam O'Meara, UK Director at Applause, cites the fact that $1.7 trillion in assets were lost to software failure in 2017. He claims that over 70 percent of these can be attributed to software bugs or usability glitches, which crowdsourced testing aims to catch out.
Upon landing on the Naked Wines site, you are immediately greeted with a short questionnaire which allows you to specify the type of wine and price range you had in mind. It's features like these that the testers provide vital feedback about.
"The look and feel that we're looking for, feedback from them, and just generally what does it feel like to be a customer today," says Jones. "They go do the exploratory for us. We ask them to use the site as our customers would.
"Our Naked model is really built on social network principles. The fact that they are real customers of ours and use the site as the customers would, it's so key to us, it says that they do really care what happens on that social interaction."
The brand is dedicated to ongoing improvement of the site. "We're big believers in automation and have a dedicated in-house automation team who build and maintain robust test suites on our own framework for both the Naked and Majestic systems," says Jones.
"We're continuously looking to improve the communication and collaboration between our dev and IT operations teams."
A recent web design was scheduled before the brand's time of peak popularity, in October, November and December. "We took the opportunity to have bit of a touch up, a little paint, rather than a wholesale redesign," says Hardy. The redesign has led to an increase from 12 percent to over 20 percent in sales accounted for by the website parent company, Majestic Wine.
And the firm's approach to digital ties in with its wider business model.
"Our goal is always to try and beat the market by investing in our customer relationships rather than our stores and we do that through investing in business models that compound, get stronger with growth - investing in disciplines because we're able to test new opportunities before we roll them out and we like to do this through using data and technology to continuously improve."