Building a user-friendly, compliant DTC eCommerce website for gifting alcohol products.
In June of 2021, Cocktail Courier came to Codal in need of an eCommerce transformation. The company needed a fast, engaging online shopping experience, as well as an efficient, compliant system for fulfilling large group orders and splitting payments between vendors. And in May of 2022, our team—in collaboration with BigCommerce and several other partners—delivered just that.
Cocktail Courier offers an innovative approach to making your favorite alcoholic beverages at home. Rather than picking up booze and mixers from your local grocery store, you can go to the brand’s eCommerce website, explore different cocktail recipes, and have a ready-made kit—with all of the ingredients and directions you need—delivered directly to your door, or the doors of your friends, family members, colleagues, and so on.
From Old Fashioneds, to Pineapple Fizzes, to Triple Spice Margaritas, Cocktail Courier’s team of mixologists create a wide range of seasonal cocktail recipes that make great gifts, whether it be for several friends, or hundreds of clients around the country. However, due to strict industry regulations, selling alcohol online comes with many issues and complexities, especially when fulfilling orders for a large number of recipients across multiple state lines.
Cocktail Courier’s main challenge was overcoming these regulations—which vary from state to state—while also facilitating a smooth online shopping experience, where customers can intuitively browse through a wide range of recipes, customize orders, ship multiple products to multiple recipients, and more.
The brand’s eCommerce website—powered by Magento at the time—required highly customizable features and functionality, including the ability for customers to ship to multiple recipients and locations under a single order. Also, the company needed help from a number of licensed third-party order fulfillment vendors around the country to deliver products quickly and efficiently, while maintaining both federal and state compliance regarding DTC alcohol shipments.
To make all of this a reality, Codal was tasked with reimagining Cocktail Courier’s entire technological infrastructure—which would ultimately lead to implementing a new eCommerce platform, payment processor, content management system (CMS), and order fulfillment flow.
We kicked this project off with a six-week-long Discovery process, analyzing the various tools and workflows Cocktail Courier relied on to power its eCommerce experience. Based on our findings, along with the company’s long-term goals and requirements, our team decided that migrating to a headless commerce architecture would be the best step forward.
Headless commerce involves decoupling an online store’s front-end presentation layer from its back-end eCommerce functionality. In comparison to traditional eCommerce systems with a monolithic tech stack, headless offers greater control when customizing UX and UI elements, since front-end updates don’t create additional work for back-end developers—and vice versa.
For Cocktail Courier, going headless meant giving design and development teams the freedom and flexibility of delivering a highly customizable online shopping experience—complete with unique search, navigation, and group ordering options. A traditional approach with templated page design, on the other hand, would have required a complex manipulation of back-end code, and would ultimately lead to scalability and limitation issues down the road.
In addition to implementing a headless architecture and designing a more seamless UX/UI, Codal integrated three key technologies to support Cocktail Courier’s innovative cocktail-kit-purchasing experience: BigCommerce, Stripe, and Shipstation. Let’s take a look at how each of these solutions fit into the bigger picture.
We migrated Cocktail Courier to BigCommerce—one of the top eCommerce platforms in the industry today, and a Codal partner that’s played an instrumental role in many of our projects over the years. With a robust API infrastructure, BigCommerce supports headless solutions and integrates seamlessly with a wide range of third-party applications.
BigCommerce merchants can enable multi-recipient shipping, which is a key ingredient to Cocktail Courier’s unique service offering. When it comes to corporate gifting, a CEO must be able to select multiple cocktail kits, address them to individual employees, set a delivery date, then pay for it all at once—rather than having to create a new order for each employee.
In many corporate gifting cases, the customer needs to send a variety of cocktail kits to hundreds of employees, partners, or prospective clients. To support large group orders like this, our team built out a flat-file integration, which allows customers to upload CSV files and create a digital address book right in their Cocktail Courier account.
For situations where the recipient’s address is in a state that prohibits delivering alcohol to consumers, we trained the site to automatically block that order, and prompt the user to choose the non-alcoholic version of the kit instead.
As mentioned, the laws and regulations around alcohol distribution are strict and vary depending on the territory. To work around this, the company recruited dozens of third-party order fulfillment vendors across the country—so kits being delivered to Los Angeles are handled by one licensed vendor, while those being delivered to Chicago are handled by another.
We integrated Shipstation to make use of its “Dropship Manager,” which helps Cocktail Courier effectively collaborate with these third-party fulfillment vendors.
The company’s master Shipstation account is connected to the accounts of its fulfillment partners—and admins can set up automation rules based on specific order criteria, like what the product’s SKU number is, where it’s being shipped to, whether it contains alcohol or not, and so on. When an order gets placed on the Cocktail Courier site, Shipstation automatically routes all the order details to the correct vendor.
Naturally, these vendors receive a percentage of every order they fulfill—but how are these payments managed? Enter Stripe.
When an order is fulfilled, Stripe automatically pays the third-party vendor, and the captured payment is sent to the Vendor Report—a custom dashboard that Codal built to manage split payments between Cocktail Courier and its order fulfillment companies.
With a simple, user-friendly layout, the Vendor Report automatically calculates and displays the total cost of each order, how much is owed to Cocktail Courier, and the net amount owed to the vendor. This makes it easy for admins to generate invoices and receive payments on each order—all while remaining compliant with federal and state regulations.
Cocktail Courier’s new eCommerce infrastructure supports a fast, responsive, and fun customer experience that’s currently shaking up the alcohol industry.
With the ability to purchase a wide variety of creative cocktail kits for up to 500 recipients at once, customers can use this website to serve all kinds of personal and professional occasions—from birthdays, to holidays, to anniversaries, and everything in between. What’s more, the Cocktail Courier team can fulfill these orders effectively, while also maintaining industry compliance, streamlined workflows, and high business scalability.
Supported by BigCommerce and other key technology partners, Codal continues to collaborate with Cocktail Courier, optimizing the brand’s eCommerce experience via cutting-edge UX and UI design. We’re incredibly proud of the groundbreaking solutions our team has launched so far, and are looking forward to serving up more awesome work soon!