Ever wondered how T2 manages its e-commerce presence? The company’s Head of E-Commerce, Manik Godhwani, opens up about the business’s key areas of focus, and its biggest struggles.
Spanning across three key channels; direct to consumer (t2tea.com), marketplaces and wholesaler third-party sites, T2’s e-commerce strategy is all about making T2’s products available globally, with 24/7 shopping capabilities. This in itself might not sound any different to most e-tailer’s online business models, but hidden beneath the concept of “reimagining and reinventing the humble tea leaf”, lies a more complex digital strategy that has turned T2’s online presence into its “fastest growing channel”.
The Evolution of T2’s Business Model
According to Godhwani, e-commerce has been a big priority for T2 over the last five years. He believes the company’s online platforms are largely to thank for the businesses ongoing ability to learn and evolve.
“E-Commerce has been a priority for T2 for the last five years, with significant growth realised since we re-launched the site in 2016,” he says.
“Consumers shopping habits are changing and our e-commerce strategy has to keep up with it. Consumers want to research anywhere and shop anywhere and anytime and we need to adapt to their needs.
“Our e-store is also proving a great test and learn platform as we enter new markets. With minimal capital, we can establish our brand in new markets and gauge customers response to the brand.”
Godhwani also says digital provides the optimal channel for trialling new things.
“E-commerce is also a great platform to trial new business models such as personalisation and subscription. It allows us to test and learn and fail fast, adapting and learning as we go,” he says.
However, like most bricks-and-mortar retailers looking to break into the online sphere, T2 has encountered issues over the years.
“The biggest challenge is technology. The business has a vision and translating it into an IT roadmap and delivering with speed has always been challenging,” Godhwani says.
“Secondly, technology is always changing and evolving. For a non-technology brand it is pretty much impossible to stay ahead of the curve and at best you are catching up fast. Prioritising the big bets is critical to ensure your limited IT resources are optimally deployed.”
One recent example of T2 using technology to enhance its service offerings is its new subscription offer for loyalty card members, which is currently in BETA test mode. While Godhwani is unable to provide the details at this stage, he does say that the company is looking forward to taking its learning’s from the test to roll the initiative out to its global customer base.
Although, technology also forms a large part of the tea retailer’s day-to-day operations.
“We have engaged with some of the best-in-class technologies available in the market today to help us expand globally. We use Salesforce Demandware as our e-com platform and also for our predictive intelligence. We have Bazaar Voice for ratings and reviews. And we have Oracle Netsuite to power our omnichannel operations and inventory management,” Godhwani says.
T2’s Marketing and Website Initiatives
“There are too many to mention,” Godhwani jokes when asked which marketing initiatives have been the biggest contributors to T2’s online success. Although, there are a number of initiatives he says T2 takes great pride in, including:
- Predictive intelligence, which has given conversion rates a boost
- New payment methods – Afterpay, Unionpay and Alipay – that have opened up the T2 brand to both local and international consumers.
He also gives a few honourable mentions to T2’s Refer a Friend loyalty program initiative, affiliate programs, and A/B testing.
For instance, in the past, the company has reportedly run A/B tests that experimented with UI/UX. As a result of one such test, T2 was able to deploy a single page checkout that has decreased the number of consumers abandoning their carts during the checkout process, while also improving conversion rates.
Optimising mobile experiences is also high up on the list of initiatives T2 is constantly addressing.
“At T2 we believe that mobile is not the future, it is the now.”
According to Godhwani, T2 gets more traffic, in Australia and around the world, on its mobile site than it does its desktop and tablet version.
“Mobile first is our mantra and always a priority,” he says.
Social Media’s Role in T2’s Content Strategy
A well-developed modern marketing strategy needs social media – a fact T2 is well aware of.
“Social media is an important part of the T2 media mix whether it be paid or organic. We absolutely believe that endorsement from a trusted and valued influencer is the best form of brand endorsement. It’s an important online medium that allows us to have a conversation with our customers,” he says.
“At T2 we have our own social media panel of valued content creators. We have learnt early on to be consistently awesome with content. You can’t give up.”
“Obviously, we can’t track the impact of social media on online purchasing, but we are working very hard to try and link social media engagement with the in-store purchase. We are piloting several initiatives at present to close the loop and hope to see some interesting outcomes in the new future.”
What’s Next for T2?
As far as Godhwani is concerned, the industry is dynamic and fast-paced and there’s a lot of potential for retailers to up their ante.
“Retail has always been and will continue to be a hugely exciting space. This is true for both the physical and online world. The ability to own the route to market is a huge advantage as you can constantly try new things and fail fast, reducing the business risk,” he says.
In Australia, however, he believes retailers aren’t adapting as fast as they could be, and T2 is no exception.
“Australian e-commerce trade is growing at a rapid pace. We need to ensure that the support services also grow at the same pace. For example, last mile delivery is expensive as compared globally and same day or next day delivery is still a dream for many retailers. We need more players in the supply chain and an increase in the adoption of new models like click & collect.”
Looking a little closer to home, Godhwani says shipping is a key area of T2’s business model that’s currently in an exciting developmental and growth stage.
“Multi-fulfilment options are next on the roadmap for T2. With our extensive store network, it makes sense to ship from the closest location to the customer. This will allow us to offer multiple delivery options, from click and collect to two-hour delivery. Leveraging the stock across the network also makes sense, as we can ensure we never miss a sale, either online or in store.”
Most of all Godhwani is excited about the future of online retail in Australia, and the disruptive role T2 hopes to play in it.
“[The online retail space] is constantly changing, innovating, and nothing seems impossible. You have to have that rigour and passion to keep up with these changes to survive and stay ahead. Ultimately, it is the future of retail.”