Crowned champion in the category of "Best in eCommerce (Brands) – Food & Beverage" at the Asia eCommerce Awards 2020 is Loob Holding, parent firm of Malaysia bubble tea chain Tealive. The bubble tea chain has been making headlines since last year with its innovative ideas and eCommerce push. Most recently last week, it has also expanded into the Cambodia market, and said it aims to set up 25 outlets in five years. This marks the eighth market the Tealive brand has entered into, after Malaysia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Brunei, the Philippines, Australia and the UK.
One of Tealive's more iconic innovations, a do-it-yourself (DIY) bubble tea kit, was birthed during the COVID-19 period amidst the lockdown. Upon unveiling the kits, Tealive was met with "tremendous response" and launched an online store that was dedicated to selling the DIY kits. According to Bryan Loo, the CEO of Loob Holding, Tealive sold "hundreds of kits" within the first few days of the launch. As of 1 April 2020, the company sold about 1,000 kits.
Speaking to MARKETING-INTERACTIVE, Loo shared how the brand, like many others, pivoted its marketing strategies to digital platforms amidst the social restrictions brought about by the pandemic. It also focused on bringing new experiences for its consumers with its unusual collaborations with Walls and MAMEE. For Tealive, it is all about knowing what brings joy to the consumers, and understanding what they need and desire. It is also about capitalising on current trends, such as the growing importance of eCommerce and digitalisation.
1. What are some of the expectations your consumers now have for your brand?
Loo: As digital platforms play a bigger part in consumers’ lives than before, consumers crave for experiences even when they make a purchase. This is why we have launched many out-of-the-box and exciting innovations during this COVID-19 period, including the popular home DIY bubble tea kits, Walls x Tealive boba ice-cream, strawless bubble tea cup and MAMEE x Tealive instant bubble tea noodle.
2. How has your marketing plans shifted last year?
Loo: Although retail remains the key component in our sales, we are also investing heavily our resources and time towards digitalisation as we believe the online market will continue to grow and double its pace in becoming the long-term new normal. This includes growing our eCommerce channels, contactless ordering, and virtual brands.
3. What are some of the trends you see carrying on post-pandemic, and how are you readying your workforce to be ready with these trends?
Loo: In our world, a virtual brand such as Baskbear Coffee is definitely a way to move forward post-pandemic. Similar to ghost kitchen concept, it does not require comprehensive physical set-up. Instead, it lives through the existing outlets of its sister brand, Tealive, to operate for delivery. This new business model has made way for new, multi-skilled training modules that empower our talents to master both the art of bubble tea and coffee-making.
4. What do you think makes for great marketing these days?
Loo: Brands often think that mind-blowing innovation or flamboyant campaigns are what makes great marketing. But to us, it is knowing what brings joy to consumers; to be at their level and understand what they need or desire. With the sudden lockdown back in 2020, we saw an opportunity to fulfil the cravings of Tealive customers even while they were stuck at home. Hence, the birth of "My Bubble Tea Kit", which enabled tea lovers to create their own Tealive bubble tea at home.
We are happy that Tealive customers appreciated the gesture and supported us whole-heartedly, and thankful that Tealive in other countries decided to adapt it in their respective markets (Australia, Vietnam, Singapore and the Philippines). Not only has this exercise transformed Tealive from a traditional brick-and-mortar business to a digitally-driven brand, this campaign has also generated a completely new experience in the world of bubble tea.
5. How are you planning for 2021?
Loo: Tealive plans to bring the latest 3.0 format that meets new normal requirements, such as contactless/in-app ordering and payment, drive-thru/drive-in models, as well as crafting a new range of Tealive Eats snacks to complement our array of beverages.
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