Noria Wines makes outstanding fine wines crafted from the finest vineyard and modeled after traditional Japanese sakes. After finding success selling wine to brokers and restaurants the business needed to focus on a new direct to consumer model.
Product Designer (UX/UI)
Winemaker / Owner
10 weeks total
5 phases @ 2 weeks
10 check ins @ 1 hour
Goals & Requirements
Brand Sprint Workshop
User & Market Research
Content Dev. & Strategy
Testing & Analytics
The owner’s primary focus is solely creating outstanding and award winning wines. In the beginning the primary customers base was restaurateurs, shop owners and wine brokers. Yet as the wine increased in popularity a gap grew in understanding who the core customer was and what unique value Noria Wines provided them. I was hired to close this gap and build a new e-commerce website that would increase retail sales.
Kick Off Meeting Agenda
Brand & Website Inventory
What’s the Story?
Website & Brand Inventory
A new e-commerce website was the primary business requirement, yet my analysis of the client questionnaires and deliverables revealed a disorganized website and brand identity with no clear value proposition or understanding of the customer.
To increase product sales the company needed to understand “who” their customer was, and a consistent brand story that reflected customer values. Help was needed to unify the company mission and vision around a product value proposition. For this reason, I began with a Brand Sprint workshop with Noria Wines.
What’s a Brand Sprint?
A brand sprint is a streamlined process for turning the hundreds or thousands of abstract ideas you have about “your brand” into something more concrete. The process is based on many of the same methods found in Google’s design sprints which I am a trained facilitator in. The Brand Sprint consists of six exercises.
The Company’s Motivation
20-Year Roadmap helps you think long-term.
What, How, Why reminds you why your company exists.
Top 3 Values
Give your why more specificity
Top 3 Audiences
Helps prioritize the target for your brand.
Relative Position to Others
Personality Sliders defines the attitude and style of your brand.
Competitive Landscape compares your brand to other companies.
“Sensai in Japanese describes when something is nuanced, sophisticated and infused with subtle details. I strive to create wines that reflect this sensibility”
Nori Nakamura, Winemaker
Foundational to any fine wine is the quality of the vineyard. Selecting only the best grapes, Noria Wines takes special care to include the vineyard’s name prominently on each bottle. Yet the art of making truly outstanding wine lies in the intentions and skill of the winemaker.
During our Brand Sprint we arrived at two key reasons behind Noria Wine's success. The winemaker revealed how the Japanese word “sensai” informed his method for crafting wines that mimicked the taste structure of traditional Japanese sake. This created a unique wine which balanced the quiet shifts of flavor found in Asian food. This fact reflected the popularity of the wine among foodies and restaurateurs and begin to offer a clearer understanding of the customer and the products value proposition.
What does it mean?
This icon was originally designed as a stylized water wheel or “noria" in Spanish. During the workshop the story around this icon changed. This symbol came to represent the intricate flavor structure of Noria Wine with each dot representing a grape perfectly arranged by the winemaker.
We also examined the name “noria” which means water wheel in Spanish. It originally was inspired by the combination of the winemaker Nori and his wife Maria’s names. The prominent icon on the bottle was meant to evoke a water wheel, a mandala, a flower, the sun and a firework. The question unanswered was: “What does it mean to the customer?”
Use of Color
Using multiple colors with an abstract font made easy read of this logo very difficult. Simple black letters easily solve this problem and generally lightened the mood.
Our workshop also addressed the legacy motto “Celebrate the Colors of Life” and the how this was expressed in the visual hierarchy. The solution was to move color usage from the logo mark to the burst icon to indicate the wine varietal. Several color variation were A/B tested and these labels were established as appealing to the customer demographic.
In the end, we arrived at a value proposition that summed up the value for the customer.
Noria wines is a Californian fine wine crafted by a Japanese winemaker made to pair with gourmet Asian cuisine.
After our design sprint workshop, I took a deep dive into the customer database to examine demographics. I also conducted five interview by phone of three current customer and two others. I then wanted to frame my finding with some quantitative data so I created a brief Google survey that I emailed to customers about wine preferences, lifestyle habits and how they discovered Noria wine. I then translated this research into these two primary personas.
Another key insight I discovered from my interviews was the relative competitive advantage of a Japanese winemaker. The customer feedback and data indicated a general that a Japanese winemaker would demonstrate a higher level of dedication, and craftsmanship in making wine.
My competitive analysis was informed by visiting other winemaking competitors websites. I found no other Japanese wine makers in the area and only one vineyard that marketed their wine specifically for Asian markets.
I also researched the venues and wine shops that carried Noria Wine. I noted how they marketed their business to local customers to gain customer insight and a competitive advantage. The deciding factors in the analysis was the connection between fine California wine and gourmet Asian food. This also became the key to the product value proposition.
From research of competitors and customers, I found that Noria Wines served two unique niche markets.
In America, Noria Wines provides a fine wine crafted by a Japanese winemaker that pairs well with Asian food.
In Japan, Noria Wines provides a fine Californian wine that pairs well with gourmet food.
The Buyer’s Journey
The findings from my customer interviews revealed word of mouth was the primary way customers discovered Noria Wines.
Top three word of mouth sources:
1. A tasting event
2. A restaurant
3. A friend
Review of the site analytics also confirmed this by showing higher traffic during wine tasting award and restaurant promotional events.
It became clear that this high touch relationship was based on key influencers, like sommeliers, servers or shop owners introducing the wine within a gourmet experience.
A key goal around most interviewed was finding a fine wine to pair with there meal. With few wine option crafted specifically for Asian foods, this remained Noria Wines competitive advantage.
Noria Wines value proposition as a Japanese crafted California fine wine need to be communicated visually with a clean, modern logo and compelling brand story.
A website with images highlighting the brand story of California vineyards with a Japanese influence.
Consistent web content with keywords and numerous backlinks to gourmet Asian restaurants in the Bay Area and Japan. Links and partnerships that provided further social proof for brand story legitimacy.
The ecommerce site needed to offer a consistent gourmet experiences with the wine, not the winemaker, out front.
For high conversion on the ecommerce website the wine needs to be presented with a sommelier’s description and a frictionless three click buying experience.
After extensive customer research and a brand sprint workshop, I designed these new bottle labels to reflect a lighter, cleaner and more modern feel. The label colors are designed for an easy customer read of the bottle contents while incorporating legacy iconography and the winemaker's motto to "celebrate the colors of life".
Before the customer tastes wine they judge the contents by the label. Noria wine label should communicate a uniquely crafted and authentically Japanese/California fine wine.
Much of the original site content focused more on the craft of making wine and the winemaker. The tag line “Celebrating the Colors of Life” created ambiguity about what was being sold and lacked any clear description about what the wine tasted like, why a customer should buy it, or context around what the “Colors of Life” are referencing.
• The landing page presents the “personality” of the wine with taste, pairings and a sommelier description of each wine.
• Close proximity between the product name, image and ADD TO CART button.
• Feature Japanese Kanji with winemaker’s pull quote describing philosophy behind the wine.
• In the high traffic ABOUT section, present the whole brand story including the name, the winemaker, and the vineyards descriptions as one cohesive whole.
• Use active words in the navigation like "taste”, “shop” and “join” to qualify what the site offers the customer.
• Show the Noria Wine’s close relationship to gourmet food creating a TASTE section.
The information architecture was not well organized, labeled or user friendly with an overwhelming amount of pages and information.
I performed thirteen card sorting exercises with “wine drinkers” (8 women, 5 men). The data from this exercise helped narrow the site navigation and showed customer priorities, assumptions, pain points and typical user flows when visiting the site.
I dramatically simplified the site navigation and page count from 16 to 5 options. This was accomplished by grouping similar content, ordering the navigation to reflect the site analytics, and card sort data. My goal was to allow the customer to order a bottle of wine in three clicks. In addition, based on the legacy website analytics and the heuristics they revealed, I also changed the names of popular navigation heading such as FIND to TASTE and CART to SHOP to reflect the end goals of the user.
With a new optimized site and a brand refresh, I integrated the VineSprint CRM and handed the keys to the client. The winemaker is currently in Japan promoting his wine. When he returns we will be examining the site analytic, sales numbers and adjusting site content and design to reflect feedback from customers. In addition we will be performing A/B testing of the new bottle label in both American and Asian markets to finalize colors for a summer soft launch in North America before the next vintage release in the fall.