From humble beginnings in Melbourne, Australia, T2 Tea has taken the traditional art of tea, turned it on its head then taken it to the world.
Now with over 21 years of brewing under its belt, T2 has gone from a single store on Brunswick Street, Fitzroy to over 96 stores worldwide across Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, United States and Asia, and operates four regional e-commerce sites as well.
Successfully going global for T2 hasn’t come without its challenges, according to Jane Hoban, T2’s global marketing director. It’s fair to say that while T2 has a strong brand presence here in Australia, it hasn’t quite been the case in other countries around the world. Terminal 2, Terminator 2 and Trainspotting 2 are just some of T2’s other references in some regions, according to Hoban, but, with the right smarts, T2 worked to overcome this and other pitfalls and is well on its way to capture further global markets.
T2’s vision is to inspire a new generation of tea drinkers around the world – a community it calls the “T2 Tea Generation”.
“Global expansion has always been part of the plan,” says Hoban, and e-commerce has been key to this. “Very early on, T2 engaged in bespoke research to look at the market attractiveness; customers love of tea and the ease of business; the ability to do business in the market. From here we developed a roadmap for new market entry. We regularly update the roadmap using e-commerce data to understand where we already have a T2 fan base.”
“How we enter a market is also evolving. Deploying a customer-first approach has seen the mix of channels change with the importance of e-commerce (owned vs. marketplaces) and wholesale increasing.”
Hoban says that ahead of any launch, T2 first tries to build a fan base in that market. “We have a few segments that we target. First, Aussies living abroad as this segment has high levels of awareness and affinity for the brand. We also always try and target the design-community. As a design-led brand, we seed T2 amongst design opinion leaders’ via design festivals or events.”
Finally, T2 engages with influencers to announce its entry into the market. Third party content has always worked well for T2, delivering three times the engagement and ROI compared to its own brand content. T2 has developed its own global panel of social influencers which it calls “Generation T”, which it leverages pre and post-launch to drive awareness for the brand.
Understanding the customer is critical to getting a launch into a new market right, according to Hoban. “We try and make the customer the centre of our universe and build the offer around them. This does not mean changing the T2 brand proposition, rather curating the offer to better meet their needs.”
A great example of this is tea in the UK. Research told T2 that British tea drinkers are very wed to their morning “builder’s tea” moment, that is, black tea with milk. They are not looking to replace this tea – rather they are looking for new beverage occasions are and are therefore willing to experiment with new teas, like T2’s Green, Fruits and Tisanes flavour.
T2 is an experiential brand first and foremost, according to Hoban. Therefore, everything starts with the tactile elements of its teas – smelling the flavours, tasting different blends and looking at the textures and colours. “A moment with a team member in-store is magical and a T2 competitive advantage,” says Hoban, which is why an omnichannel approach has been another key to launching in foreign markets.
In Singapore, T2 first seeded the brand in wholesale accounts before launching in-store and online, and it supplemented the launch with a play in department stores.
“In our recent Singapore launch, we also invited influencers to master classes in-store where they experienced first-hand that magical immersive tea moment. They in turned talked about this with their fans who in turn made a bee-line to the store. It seems simple, but communicating clearly what sets you apart from the competition works.”
The biggest learning in the T2 global expansion journey, according to Hoban, has been understanding the difference between opening a store and building a brand. “In Australia, we have very high brand awareness, however, this is not the case in many of our international markets. Supporting the launch with a fully funded marketing plan has proved critical to the success in a given market.”