Brew Box — Creating a Two Sided Platform

The Intro

Have you ever had craft beer delivered to your doorstep? That’s what the company Brew Box is doing in Ontario, Canada. They are doing a good job at it too. Right now, their core offering is a monthly subscription box of beer. Even though the company is only two years old, they are already acknowledging opportunity for growth. As a UX designer, this is when I got involved in the craft beer delivery scene.

The Problem

Brew Box approached our design team with a problem that had to be solved in less than three weeks. They needed help understanding how to integrate a new craft beer store front to their website without detracting from their core offering of subscription services. This wasn’t only a digital problem. Brew Box supplies an End-to-End service by being the distribution platform for many local Ontario breweries. We quickly recognized that we would be working in the realm of a two sided marketplace, customer and breweries. Brew Box gently sets themselves right between the middle of the two.

Our Approach

Going into this project we knew nothing about the alcohol industry in Canada. So we hit the web and dug through loads of data the Canadian government makes available to the public via Not only did we learn how massive the industry really is, but how much room there is for growth. Brew Box came to us with the right kind of idea, and now it was time to validate the execution.

Because we had never worked in the booze industry before, we wanted to get a feel for how the company operated. Before we knew it, we were building and packing boxes of beer at Brew Box’s warehouse. It was really helpful being able to meet the core team and hear the different insights each person contributes to the company. One of the first things noticed about the product was the packaging. Essentially, it was just a box of beer, but let’s talk about that later. Here are some action shots of the Brew Box and design team working hard together at the warehouse.

Yes Matt, you can take it home with you.

Once we had an understanding of what goes down at the warehouse, it was time to focus more on the recipients of those beer boxes we were packing.

Listening To The Customers

One of the benefits of working with Brew Box is they already had their customer database readily available to us. We were easily able to contact customers for surveys and interviews. We received an overwhelming response from current customers. But what about non-customers, we interviewed them too. It was really important to us to find all types of beer drinkers. We sought out craft beer enthusiasts, the hardcore boozers, and the light drinkers too. After receiving our first sets of quantitative data from survey responses, we needed more, so we set up contextual inquiries to focus more on the qualitative side of things. Here’s a picture of us casually and enthusiastically inquiring a craft beer enthusiast.

Super exciting, I know.

Don’t Forget About The Breweries

We set up in person interviews and also sent out email surveys to different breweries to find out how they operate their business now, and how they want to be operating their business in the future. 90% of them said they are aiming for some type of distribution but lack the tools necessary to make it happen.

The Insights

We dug through website Analytics, industry data, and after gathering insights from Brew Box, customers, non-customers, and breweries, we needed to put it all together to form ideas to solve the problem Brew Box came to us with. But once you solve one problem, all of a sudden you have more to deal with. In this case it was user engagement. According to their site analytics, 76% of their customers visited their site once to oder their box and then never returned. As long as they were receiving their box at their door they had no reason to return to the site. We also found that only 25% of breweries are using some type of online distribution platform.

So here is what we planned on tackling:

  1. Restructure the marketing from a subscription box to a ‘membership box’. This was the key to more business as well as continued business.
  2. Add a new feature to the website called “The Bottle Shop”. This is where people can purchase craft beer with out being a member.
  3. Demonstrate why Brew Box are experts and how they can share that expertise with you.
  4. Redesign the packaging and the tasting notes in that packaging.
  5. Increase engagement for returning users on the Brew Box site.
  6. Create a two-sided platform for both Brew Box and Breweries can use to manage their businesses.

Easy right?

One of the patterns we identified between all surveys and interviews was the idea that Brew Box was just a ‘box of beer subscription service’. Here are the key findings that we worked with to validate our designs.

  • 80% of Brew Box clients are purchasing craft beer from other sources
  • 91% of polled Brew Box users would be interested in curating their own orders
  • 38% are interested in receiving more than one ‘traditional’ box per month
  • Only 25% of brewers use a subscription based delivery service

The Designs

One of the first things we noticed was the need to update their current logo to a design that is more applicable to smaller sizes. We also cleaned up the distressed look for a more modern feel.

Our team completed high amounts of domain research and comparative analysis of the beer delivery industry. We made a list of all the design element we liked, and of course what we hated. I refuse to bore you with all the iterations of wireframes we made, so here are just a few of them.

The final product went through many iterations as well. Here are two of them. The final (for now) on the right went through the minimalist shower and dried off looking fresh and clean and felt very functional. We reached this solution by going through hours and hours of user testing.

The User Profile

The user profile is one of the major elements that Brew Box was currently lacking. Our surveys and interviews show that people want access to member benefits, they want to track their shipping, and most importantly they want to know more information about the beer they are drinking. We designed the profile to be easily interpreted and highlight the features of being a member. The creation of the profile was geared toward engagement. Now, after users become a member, they have a reason to return and interact more with the site.

The Operations Design

Brew Box was lacking in providing the breweries the tools necessary to help them become a partner for distribution. It was simple to see that by providing the breweries with tools to help their business grow, it would result in Brew Box’s business growing as well. So we designed a platform to assist in both businesses cohesively working together. We never took the wireframes past mid-fidelity at this part of the project because we still have massive amounts of research to complete with their backend systems. As you will see, the design is based entirely on function and not style. The buttons are optimized for most thumb sizes, the fonts are clear, the menu is easy to read. We put ourselves in their shoes and imagined what it would be like trying to manage a business on the go.

The Box

After we redesigned and reframed the site, and created a management platform, we still had another problem we had to tackle. This was the package design. During our contextual inquires, more than half the people commented on the packaging being “mediocre” or “unimpressive”. They wanted something that made them feel like they weren’t just buying a box of beer from the liquor store. Below are the renders of what we imagined the box should look and function like. The box is just another vital piece of the puzzle of a complete end-to-end experience. The first image you will see is what the customer sees when opening the box. After is our redesign.

The Ending (and beginning)

We presented our findings and designs to Brew Box. To put it simply, they were thrilled with the work completed. We not only hypothetically solved the issue of adding their new store front to the site, but we provided them with a reframing of their overall message. I say ‘hypothetically’ because there is still a lot of testing to be done once the redesign goes live. On top of that, we established the need and design for a platform to connect both brewer and Brew Box to work efficiently and improve each others business. In the last stage, we were able to fill a gap of low satisfaction during the user journey by reimagining how beer could be presented, and redesigning the packaging to complete the end-to-end product.

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