• Driving Growth Through Intent-Based Advertising and Experiential Retail

    The tea industry has seen significant growth over the past few years. More consumers are looking for unique and high-quality tea products. 

    Tea business owners must create a customer-centric approach (Gascoyne, 2023). Such an approach requires understanding consumer intent (Bailey, 2023). Combining intent-based advertising and experiential retail can fuel growth for your tea brand.

    World Tea Conference + Expo opens with the Bar & Restaurant Expo, March 2023, Las Vegas, NV. Ellen Kanner photo

    We will delve into the following:

    • the importance of understanding consumer intent and matching content with intent and context (Bailey, 2023), 
    • creating an immersive customer experience through experiential retail (Gascoyne, 2023), and
    •  leveraging the power of word-of-mouth marketing.

    This article summarizes a few key insights from the 2023 World Tea Expo. By the end of this article, you will gain clarity into creating a successful tea business.

    The Customer is King (Gascoyne, 2023)

    The success of any business depends on its customers. 

    Kevin Gascoyne, Tea Buyer & Taster of Camellia Sinensis Teahouse, points out that the tea business is 90% selling and 10% buying (2023). So, a customer-centric approach is crucial to succeeding in the industry.

    This means: 

    • understanding your customers’ preferences, 
    • maximizing customer value, and 
    • creating a personalized experience that meets their needs.

    By focusing on the customer, tea brand owners can:

    • identify their target audience, 
    • create products that match their preferences, and 
    • tailor marketing strategies. 

    Understanding customer intent (Bailey, 2023) is critical to this approach. 

    This means understanding the motive behind a customer’s action, like scrolling on social media or doing a Google search.

    Mackenzie Bailey speaking on Internet-Based Marketing at the World Tea Conference + Expo

    Identify whether customers are:

    • looking for something specific (search intent), or 
    • open to new content (discovery intent). 

    Identifying these intent signals allows your tea brands to create content matching customer needs and context (Bailey, 2023). Some of the content your tea brand may need to create include:

    • social media posts, 
    • blog posts, 
    • ads, 
    • product pages, and more

    Key Takeaway: A customer-centric approach is essential for tea brand owners looking to succeed in the industry. Tea brands can create personalized experiences that meet customer needs, driving growth. Creating these personalized experiences requires understanding customers’ preferences and identifying their intent.

    Narrow Definition of Excellence (Gascoyne, 2023)

    Focusing on a narrow definition of excellence is critical to creating a successful tea brand. 

    Kevin Gascoyne speaking on the transition of his tea business from restaurant to Experiential Retail at the World Tea Conference + Expo. Ellen Kanner photo

    Kevin Gascoyne (2023) suggests that claiming to sell ‘the best tea’ is not enough. Instead, tea brands must focus on delivering the best product for a specific type of tea and price point.

    “We focus on a narrow definition of excellence. For example, offering the best Chinese curl leaf tea that we can sell for $10.” – Kevin Gascoyne, Tea Buyer & Taster, Camellia Sinensis Teahouse

    Brands can differentiate themselves from others in the tea market by specializing in particular teas, and segmenting the tea market.

    Specialization also allows tea brands to focus on delivering consistent quality. Customers can expect the same high-quality tea every time they buy from the brand. This expectation of quality within the customer base leads to loyalty and repeat business. 

    Focusing on a narrow definition of excellence allows tea brands to become thought leaders in their niche. They create a trickle-down marketing effect (Gascoyne, 2023).

    Key Takeaway: Tea brand owners must focus on a narrow definition of excellence to succeed in the industry. Tea brands can differentiate by specializing in a particular tea segment and delivering consistent quality.

    Intent-Based Advertising (Bailey, 2023)

    Understanding consumer intent is crucial to creating successful campaigns for tea brands. So, Mackenzie Bailey (2023), Founder of Steeped Content, suggests intent-based advertising and marketing.

    Intent-based marketing involves creating content that matches consumer intent and context. 

    She suggests:

    1. producing blog posts that align with keyword intent
    2. creating social media content and ads aligned with the platform’s intent
    3. using local SEO to capture the search intent of nearby customers 

    Matching content with intent and context allows tea brands to create personalized experiences. These experiences meet their customers’ needs. 

    For instance, a customer may be searching for a specific type of tea (e.g., hibiscus). A tea brand can create an ad or blog post highlighting that tea. Such content may highlight the tea’s benefits and features. 

    On the other hand, a customer is open to trying new teas without actively searching for something. In such cases, your tea brand can create content introducing new teas. Use social media posts or emails to encourage customers to explore novel products. 

    Identifying and meeting consumer intent is crucial for marketing tea. Intent-based marketing helps your tea brand to:

    • attract and retain customers, 
    • increase brand awareness, and
    • drive sales.

    “Intent-based advertising is not just about reaching more customers, it’s about reaching the right customers at the right time with the right message. By understanding and meeting consumer intent, tea brands can create personalized experiences that fuel their growth” – Mackenzie Bailey, Founder, Steeped Content

    “Building community through social media is one of the many ways entrepreneurs can use technology to build a successful teashop.” -Ellen Kanner, Teahouse Owner

    Key Takeaway: Intent-based marketing is critical to a successful tea brand’s marketing strategy

    The Power of Experiential Retail (Gascoyne, 2023) 

    Experiential retail is a powerful tool for tea brands looking to create an immersive customer experience. Kevin Gascoyne (2023) suggests that creating an immersive experience is crucial to:

    • engage customers,
    • create loyalty, and 
    • driving sales.

    Experiential retail involves creating a physical space where customers interact with the brand and products. 

    For tea brands, this could mean creating a tea shop where customers can:

    • taste different teas,
    • attend tea ceremonies, or 
    • learn about the tea-making process. 

    Creating an immersive experience helps tea brands differentiate themselves from other brands. They create a personalized experience for customers and drive sales.

    Experiential retail experiences may be more likely to be shared by tea drinkers. This can help improve your brand awareness and lower customer acquisition costs (existing customers are promoting you to new potential customers for free).

    “Camellia Sinensis Teahouse has updated our tea shop to an experienced-based retail store. Since doing so, we have seen user-generated content double, helping our brand awareness.” – Francois Marchand, Marketing Director, Camellia Sinensis Teahouse

    The role of storytelling in experiential retail is also crucial. It creates an emotional connection with customers and inspires them to engage with the brand.

    Such brand stories may include:

    • the history of the brand, 
    • the tea-making process, or 
    • the sourcing of tea leaves.

    Key Takeaway: Experiential retail can help tea brands to drive growth in the industry. By creating an immersive customer experience, tea brands can differentiate themselves from others.

    Trickle-Down Marketing Effect (Gascoyne, 2023)

    The trickle-down marketing effect occurs in specialized, successful tea businesses. Kevin Gascoyne (2023) suggests that specialized tea businesses can create a ripple effect in the industry. They influence the market and drive demand for high-quality teas.

    Specialized tea businesses focus on the following:

    1. delivering a narrow definition of excellence,
    2. creating an immersive customer experience through experiential retail,
    3. offering exceptional products,
    4. Understanding and intentionally meeting customer needs

    By doing so, they create a loyal customer base that becomes a source of word-of-mouth marketing. This word-of-mouth can lead to an increase in demand for high-quality teas.

    Specialized tea businesses can become thought leaders in their niche. They can create a reputation for delivering high-quality tea. This reputation attracts customers looking for such products. This can help the tea market evolve by gradually growing demand for these premium teas.

    “We stock a range of special teas at different price points. For example, we carry twelve sencha teas. In some cases, some sencha differ on the cultivar level. Such granular differentiation helps tea drinkers gain rich product knowledge. It often builds a visceral connection to the product, tea.” Kevin Gascoyne, Tea Taster & Buyer, Camellia Sinensis Teahouse

    Key Takeaway: Specialized tea businesses can create a trickle-down marketing effect in the industry. They drive demand for high-quality teas.

    Driving Growth in the Tea Industry

    To drive growth in the tea industry, brands can combine intent-based advertising and experiential retail. This combination creates a personalized and immersive customer experience.

    By understanding consumer intent, (Bailey, 2023) and matching content with intent and context, tea brands can create personalized experiences. These experiences meet their customers’ needs and drive sales.

    Experiential retail allows tea brands to create an immersive customer experience that differentiates you from other brands in the market (Gascoyne, 2023). 

    Creating a physical space where customers can interact with the brand and its products helps your tea company. By doing so, tea brands can create loyalty, generate word-of-mouth marketing, and drive sales.

    The trickle-down marketing effect (Gascoyne, 2023) can drive growth in the tea industry. It creates demand for high-quality teas. Specialized tea businesses can become thought leaders in their niche. They can create a reputation for delivering high-quality tea, drive word-of-mouth, and help the industry evolve.

    Driving growth in the tea industry requires tea brands to adopt a customer-focused approach. This approach necessitates understanding consumer intent (Bailey, 2023). 

    Combining intent-based advertising and experiential retail, tea brands can differentiate themselves from others.

    Key Takeaway: Tea brand owners must focus on creating a customer-centric approach (Gascoyne, 2023) and understanding consumer intent (Bailey, 2023) to drive growth.

  • World Tea Conference + Expo 2022

    World Tea Conference + Expo attendees conveyed unique zeal as the largest of North America’s tea shows ushered in the return of in-person event marketing during its 20th anniversary gathering in Las Vegas.

    The trade show floor was crowded as tea lovers mingle with bartenders and chefs attending the adjacent Bar and Restaurant Expo. Exhibitors displaying cream liqueur and Ceylon tea are situated a short distance apart; pulsing bass music forms a consistent backdrop to these seemingly incongruous vendors. 

    Mackenzie Bailey On The Floor at World Tea Conference + Expo
    • Caption: Opening day crowd at the combined Bar and Restaurant Expo and World Tea Conference + Expo in Las Vegas, March 21-23.
    QTrade Teas & Herbs
    QTrade Teas & Herbs CEO Manjiv Jayakumar said “We are focusing on providing manufacturing solutions for the supplement industry, to support that segment. Because tea is increasingly sold as vitamins in North America.”

    How B2B Brands Use The World Tea Expo

    By Mackenzie Bailey

    Tea boards and wholesalers exhibiting at World Tea Expo sought to increase brand and product exposure with tasteful, large signage. On the World Tea Expo floor, retailers held the attention of attendees with aromatic tea blends and beautiful teaware.

    The spacious ITI booths stood out among the crowd with relatively sizeable friendly team engages passers-by, drawing them into the conversation.

    “We started heavily marketing in 2020. That was the perfect time to push, and we saw a huge success doing that online,” said Bianca Shaw, Marketing Director at ITI in Los Angeles.

    “Everybody is very enthusiastic about talking about the future, whereas everybody was focused on surviving” -Manjiv, QTrade Teas & Herbs. Other wholesalers, such as Dethlefsen & Balk, use premium booth branding to draw attention and a vast array of tea samples to engage prospects and achieve product exposure

    Market-leading retail brand Harney & Sons use the trade show to demonstrate leadership. A prominent logo strongly characterizes their booth, and subtle tea tins reinforce the branding. The company’s top brass, Mike and Paul are close at hand, signaling strong leadership and involvement in the tea community (and market).


    “It will be a good year now at Harney and Sons. We took advantage of the little hiatus we were on. We retooled our foodservice look and introduced a whole new wellness line,” said Mike Harney, CEO Harney & Sons.

    Expos, offering an opportunity to speak with retailers, indicate areas of focus for major tea brands.

    “We have the hemp division, which is our sister company.  We’ve been doing CBD and just applied for a marijuana growing license, which became legal in Connecticut and New York,” said Harney.

    On Trend Marketers

    The vendors ‘ stalls hint at the tea market trends; cold brew tea and boba are prominent themes.

    Some retailers, such as Marumatsu Tea Co, distinguish themselves on the floor, which was flooded with many spectators and potential customers.

    Marumatsu’s dark branding and muted table colors contrast the color schemes adopted by retailers elsewhere on the floor. Instead, product and tea trends held the focus of attendees. Their striking glass flash-cold brew tea infusers dispense fine Japanese green tea to eager vendors, offering real-time validation of the North American market interest in cold brew tea.

    “Iced tea is growing globally and will continue to do so over the next ten years, along with sparkling teas,” said Chris MacNitt.

    Experts in the tea industry, such as Andrew Chau Co-Founder & CEO of Boba Guys, leverage tactics used in adjacent segment alcoholic drinks.

    Chau said “Our boba tea pulls on bartending principles of layering ingredients by density. Segmenting our drinks into trilaterally offers us an opportunity to explain our products to consumers.”

    Other innovative products include substitutes for milk tea sweet jam-based tea. New vendors, such as Starry Foods, offer flavors positioned to thrive in the North American market, such as peach and mango, and provide additional flavors that may gain further traction (e.g., lychee).

    “We’re taking what’s popular in Asia and doing it here. Our new peach products are experiencing strong demand,” said Thomas Su, Starry Foods.

    “We typically see trends emerge in Asia and migrate later to North America,” said Art Lopez Marketing Director, Tea, Finlays’ Tea.

    This echoes the product insights shared by Chris MacNitt during the Tea Business Incubator session of the robust North American demand for specific flavor profiles, such as peach.


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