VNTNR: A platform for a new generation
A new brand identity, plus a content x commerce platform for the global leaders of conviviality to connect with a new target audience, and drive lifetime value through education, inspiration, and subscriptions.
Pernod Ricard Winemakers are one of the globe’s most influential leaders in wine and spirits, with their brands enjoyed around the world. We partnered with them on their first substantial investment into the Australian D2C space, to create a new home for their premium products on a future-facing stack with scalability in mind. This is eComm, but not as you know it.
Brand IdentityUser ExperienceUser TestingUI DesignTechnology ConsultingFullstack Development
In order to create a more sustainable business model that does not rely solely on distributors, Pernod wanted to create a D2C offering that would appeal to a younger target audience, bringing a new generation of people into the enjoyment and culture of wine.
The experience needed to be dynamic, engaging, and a little different - which we would not be able to achieve on Pernod’s global tech stack. But with a brief to genuinely do things differently, Nightjar and the local Pernod team set off on an adventure to change the status quo in order to achieve a best-in-class eCommerce platform.
We were also creating a new brand identity from its very inception, and after several name changes and pivots, VNTNR, old English for ‘merchant of wine’, was settled upon. From here we needed to craft a brand identity which was both modern while still revering the heritage, history and artistry of wine and the winemaking process.
Bonding, not branding
Insights into the target audience revealed that 25-44 year olds want bonding, not branding, so we needed to re-imagine what ‘fine wine’ luxury actually means to this group - as they move away from the traditional fine wine rules. Everyone should be able to enjoy wine, there is no ‘wrong’ - as younger and less experienced wine drinkers can sometimes be made to feel.
The brand identity therefore needed to feel inclusive and playful, but not too young or watered down. The brand is bold - VNTNR has an opinion and the tone and visuals needed to reflect this, and reassure drinkers they know their stuff. Using a monochromatic colour palette and the powerful FK Grotesk Neue from Florian Karsten Typefaces, VNTNR feels empowering and confident, encouraging others to feel the same, and exciting them to embark on their new wine journey. With only premium-tier products retailed on the site, the brand always needed to feel aspirational, and every little detail mattered - from the art direction dictating the way the bottles were represented, to the introduction of codes for each wine varietal, bringing each brand together under the one VNTNR identity.
Content x Commerce
Catering to an audience with varying levels of wine knowledge (and confidence) we explored how the site could support both the wine tourists, and the wine purists.
Wanting to disrupt the usual eComm conventions, the homepage is a never-ending feed of content mixed with product, enticing the visitor to engage with whatever piques their interest.
With a focus on education, we created a breadth of content types to appeal to different people and different moods. In depth, one-on-one audio ‘Sessions’ with chief winemakers reveal their approach, their inspiration, their passion.
We also launched with four hero winery pages, with photography shot by Saskia Wilson, evoking a sense of vibrancy, movement and rhythm. We wanted to bring to life the art of wine, explore the theatre of both the process and the enjoyment of wine.
Additional content types include short, social-type stories of little known wine facts aimed to amuse and educate, perfect for mobile consumption, and an on-the-ground editorial series with latest restaurant and bar openings, and a behind the scenes look at the wine and hospitality industry - currency and social cachet for our target audience.
To ensure the speedy shopping experience, the navigation has an ever-present ‘Shop’ option, taking you directly to the product index page. Visitors are encouraged to sign up to the VNTNR membership program, as certain special members-only releases are dotted throughout the page.
Minimal design, including smart UI elements which show the contextually relevant next action for the user to take, depending which page they’re on. It switches between ‘Add to cart’, a play bar (in ‘Sessions’ content), a login prompt, or a sign up module - keeping the site intentionally pared back. Lots of negative space let the products and the content breathe, giving the wine the time and space it deserves.
It was agreed we didn’t want our product pages to resemble traditional eComm, so they feature intentionally oversized type and bottles, putting full focus on the brand, with more details to uncover further down the page.
The goal was to bypass a traditional eCommerce site, and instead merge content and product - just as we’d done for THE ICONIC.
We created a content-rich headless eComm experience using Shopify Plus, totally transforming the way Pernod approaches digital builds. The seamless frontend user experience fully integrates with Pernod’s existing ERP system and warehouse facility through an orchestration layer.
With our strategic decision to focus on the homepage feed, this allowed us to house dynamic and content, built in WebGL. We engineered a 3D framework on top of WebGL in order to really push the boundaries of content on the feed, while also allowing freedom and flexibility for experimentation on the platform in the future. The content is on an infinite loop - and pulls in a mix of products, brands, and article types. Built to be automated for the Pernod content editor’s ease, we also engineered the capability to override this, for any special drops - such as a new DR3 or limited edition release. Upcoming limited edition release bottles are shown on the site with a countdown timer, much like a sneaker drop, to generate hype; a cultural reference our audience are well versed in.
Our headless approach also delivers peak user experience for both performance and and SEO.
"The approach for the VNTNR platform was always to be different, we didn’t want it to feel like just another eComm site. We knew Nightjar’s track record for delivering not only exceptionally design-forward sites, but ones that really performed under the hood. We always needed a strong tech partner for this big undertaking, and Nightjar were part design and engineering partner, part innovation consultant"
Scalability at the core
Built with multi-site capability, the platform first launched in Australia, New Zealand will follow later in the year, and then there’s no limit - the setup will be able to handle multiple instances across the globe - all with unique content and inventory, as well as data and legal compliance.