flaschenpost.ch finds the ideal blend for tomorrow’s digital wine trade
Switzerland's largest online wine retailer is building its digital commerce of tomorrow by decoupling the frontend from the backend. The decision for a modern MACH tech stack brought speed and agility — and guarantees the best possible shopping experience for customers.
The former business students Renzo Schweri and Dominic Blaesi already had ambitious goals in 2007. Because they were tired of searching for good wines in the vastness of the internet, they wanted to create an “Amazon for wine” under the domain flaschenpost.ch. There, the best wines from around the world should be clearly orderable in 1 place. A good 13 years later, the 2 have already taken a considerable step closer to their vision. flaschenpost.ch has become the largest online wine retailer in Switzerland. 80,000 customers can choose from an assortment of 30,000 wines sourced from 100 of the most renowned Swiss wine shops.
The founders place great emphasis on offering their customers the best possible shopping experience. Finding and ordering wine should be more convenient and affordable than in any other store.
“Our hypothesis, supported by surveys, is that many wine lovers aren’t really interested in where a wine comes from, which grape is in it, or how it’s made. They just want to drink wine that they like,” says company founder Dominic Blaesi. “That’s where we want to start and solve their problem. Customers should always have a wine cellar full with wines guaranteed to please them and their guests without having to worry about anything.”
Customer expectations change daily, flaschenpost.ch changes with them
In the rapidly developing digital commerce market, the demand for an optimal customer experience is an enormous challenge. Almost every day, somewhere in the world, an online retailer presents a new feature that again improves the customer experience a little. Most innovations don’t even come from the retailer’s own industry, which is still sluggish when it comes to digitalization, according to Blaesi. Nevertheless, every novelty changes customers’ expectations of the shopping experience.
In the process, the team quickly noticed: they were no longer getting anywhere with the existing Magento-based store. “The monolithic structure of Magento has been customized again and again over the years. This made it increasingly complicated, lengthy, and therefore very expensive to develop new features,” explains flaschenpost CTO Johannes Klaiber. Management quickly decided that the future consisted of a headless architecture that created independence between the frontend and backend — and chose Frontastic as the Composable Commerce Platform.
“This gives us a faster time to market because it’s a modern technology that fits better with our skills and development,” Klaiber explains. At the same time, he says, the setup that also involves commercetools as the backend, enables the company to build a more agile organizational structure. “Our goal is to create product teams that can independently drive their own projects,” says the CTO. One team could then take care of the store, for example, while another takes care of building a subscription model. And no one would have to take into account when the other changes or installs anything in the system.
The right wine at the right time — for every customer
flaschenpost.ch is currently working on different services that offer wine moments for its customers. Frontastic proves to be an ideal platform for building these services such as subscription, recommendation and premium services.
In general, flaschenpost.ch can implement new ideas 50% faster than before, estimates CTO Johannes Klaiber. The Computer Scientist sees the new tech stack as a major advantage and is a much better match for the developers’ skills. “Our programmers are based in Belgrade in Serbia. It’s difficult to find someone with Magento know-how there,” says Klaiber. People who choose to become a developer today wouldn’t learn old concepts but those that Frontastic follows. Also, developers on the team would prefer to develop innovative things than struggle with legacy. “We held a proof-of-concept workshop in the evaluation and let the developers code. That showed us that there were no problems at all in dealing with Frontastic and commercetools,” the IT expert recounts.
“By using Frontastic, flaschenpost.ch can implement new ideas 50% faster than before.”
Johannes Klaiber, CTO at flaschenpost.ch
The next item on the agenda is optimizing the user experience on mobile devices. Although the current store is responsive, it only fulfills the basics of a mobile-optimized site. Under Magento, optimization was no longer worthwhile. “With Frontastic, we’ll succeed much better,” the flaschenpost.ch CTO is convinced. He’s particularly taken with the Frontastic studio, which lets teams scan a QR code on a mobile device and see exactly how the content pages they created will look on an actual device. Frontastic’s technology foundation also allows for more design flexibility. “Animations or smoother transitions between individual pages are much easier to implement,” according to Klaiber’s experience. For the coming year, the implementation of an app is planned, which should primarily give wings to the new Flight subscription. “A smartphone is always with us, and with an app, we’re even closer to our customers,” says the CTO. In this way, one has completely different marketing and design options — both visually and in the user experience. Plus, new services can be added to Flights through the app. There are many ideas: from intelligent wine racks to optimized service on the last mile of delivery.
Tests for the retail of the future
For the time after the relaunch, the implementation of an app is planned, which should primarily give wings to the new "Flights" subscription. "The cell phone is always with us and with an app we are even closer to the customer," says CTO Klaiber. This way, one has completely different design and marketing options - both visually and in the user experience. In addition, new services can be added to flights via the app. There are many ideas: from intelligent wine racks to optimized service on the last mile of delivery.
What the wine trade of tomorrow will look like is still largely a matter of speculation, even for the experts at Flaschenpost. But in order to find new features that will enable the store to stand out from the competition in the future, customer surveys, usability tests and the simulation of features in the form of click prototypes are among the measures being taken. In addition, the founders rely on Minimal Viable Products by quickly releasing trial balloons to test customer response. Blaesi, Klaiber and Schweri, however, are already sure that with the headless approach and the combination of commercetools and Frontastic, they are already very well positioned for tomorrow's customer demands.
What the wine trade of tomorrow will look like is still largely a matter of speculation. But to find new features that will enable flaschenpost.ch to stand out from the competition in the future, the team regularly collects and analyzes qualitative and quantitative data. User testing with qualitative interviews takes place as well as the simulation of features or subpages in the form of click prototypes. Plus, the founders rely on Minimal Viable Products to quickly introduce trial balloons to test customer response. Sprints ensure continuous improvement. In any case, Dominic Blaesi and Johannes Klaiber are certain: no matter what the future brings, with the headless approach and the combination of commercetools and Frontastic, they’re fortified for the future.
Switzerland’s largest online wine retailer is building the future of its digital business with Frontastic and commercetools as the cornerstones. The decision brings speed and agility — and guarantees the best possible shopping experience for its customers. Compared to the limits and constraints of their former, heavily customized monolithic shop system, now, flaschenpost.ch is able to launch new features, functionalities, and shopping experience 50% faster than before, increasing developer happiness and productivity dramatically.