Winetaster provides an expansive solution to discovering the best wines for your taste. We spoke with Don Bradford, CTO, and CPO to learn more.
|Name and Title:||Don Bradford, Co-founder, CTO, and CPO|
Q: Introduce readers to Winetaster. What do you do?
A: Our goal has been to create the easiest way for users to discover, remember, locate, and purchase wines that match their taste. We started out building a platform to explore affinity commerce— how users with similar tastes can be influential on each other— and realized that in the complicated world of wine (varietals, vintages, etc.), users wanted quick access to information online and nearby. This extends from recommending which wines to purchase online to helping users explore nearby establishments while out and about on their mobile devices.
Q: Why is location data important for Winetaster?
A: Wine is part of a social experience (most people don’t regularly drink a bottle home alone— not that there’s anything wrong with that). However, many people are challenged to find a restaurant that meets some set of criteria (a certain cuisine, price, parking, location, etc.) and offers a wine list that they can enjoy. This is why we really went into making a mobile “out on the town” experience, which requires as much venue information as we can get.
Q: Why did you choose Factual as your location data provider?
A: Something that makes Factual’s Global Places so powerful is that it offers consistent, rich data (such as address, hours, cuisine, and price) for all different venues— restaurants, bars, retailers, etc.. Additionally, Crosswalk allows us to pull in a wide view of places and show users complete recommendations including elements like, Locu place data, Yelp and Foursquare reviews.
Q: Was your long term plan always to have a desktop and mobile experience or is this something that evolved over time?
A: We always planned on offering both desktop and mobile. When we first started testing with users, we found that they experienced wines across a variety of devices: at home they shop online on their laptops or desktops; when they are out at a store or restaurant, they reference their mobile devices for recommendations and search. Most of our users use at least a smartphone and another device (such as a laptop). With this in mind, we took a design approach for our mobile site that would make it easy to later build out iOS and Android apps. Right now, we’re in the process of launching our website, mobile web app, and first native app for iPhone.
Q: Are there any new features of Winetaster coming up?
A: One of the things we’re building out right now is a menu and wine list database and index to offer the same powerful search and autocomplete that we do for wines. While using our Discovery feature, you can set a series of parameters (for example: unoaked Chardonnay that pairs well with chicken masala) and pull a list of corresponding wines from our index. We’re expanding that to restaurants, so you can ask, “I’m in Mendocino at a place with a great red snapper and am trying to pick a good light Pinot Grigio to go with it,” and get a recommendation. Ultimately we’re going for a holistic experience and plan to continue to build out features to use at restaurants.
Q: How do you provide recommendations for users?
A: Our wine data is pulled from multiple sources— any public information or reviews that we crawl and index goes into it. We condense all of this input data and identify relevant attributes, such as oaking for Chardonnays. We get a lot of interesting cases where people use unconventional ways of describing wine, such as describing a “silky” red. Since we want Winetaster to be approachable to all users, not just professionals who use the same jargon, we approach these cases with a sort of intelligent tagging system that identifies common terms used to refer to different wines in reviews. We also look at user profiles to match users with wines that other people with similar taste suggest, not just recommendations from the general population.
Q: Did you use existing food and beverage or restaurant apps as your inspiration?
A: Actually, I’d say we’re modeled more closely after travel sites, such as Kayak or Trivago, who offer a vertical search experience that pulls all of the relevant information into one place. We offer a blended local experience, integrating Yelp, Foursquare, Factual, and Locu. Most other sites and apps in the wine space are more about a personalized wine experience or pushing inventory. We saw that nobody had really tried to take a customer-centric view of the online marketplace and tie it together with real world experiences in stores or restaurants.
Q: What is a lesson that you have learned while working on Winetaster?
A: One of the primary lessons we’ve learned is the importance of leveraging opportunities with strategic partners at the platform and business levels. We started off doing things on our own, but we determined that we’re better off partnering with different platforms rather than building everything in-house. We’ve definitely lost some time working with platforms that ultimately didn’t meet our needs, but as we’ve become more discerning and developed better relationships, this has been extremely beneficial.
- Julie Levine, Marketing Associate
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