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Binomial is an innovation consulting firm helping clients be disruption-ready
March 29, 2021
HEYTEA was founded in 2012 in Jiangmen, a third-tier city in Guangdong, China. It has since developed from a small startup to a well-known brand, for which millennials are willing to queue up to 2 hours for a drink. It has rapidly expanded in China in the last eight years with over 650 stores in 2020, and started expanding to other Asian markets by launching its first store in Singapore in 2018.
It's hard to imagine millennials queueing 2 hours just for a drink, especially with the fact that more and more young people in China perceive tea as an old-fashioned drink and are increasingly replacing tea with coffee in China today. While there’s no doubt that HEYTEA’s initial product – a unique blend of salty cheese and ‘natural’ fruit tea base – was the reason for its initial success, it’s not the most important for its sustained growth. The credit goes to the company’s innovative branding strategy that changed millennials’ preconceived notion that tea is for the older generation and elevated HEYTEA to become a fashion trend.
Unlike most brands who would adhere to a unified design with the same color themes and store layouts to show a consistent brand personality, HEYTEA pursues diverse store interior designs and brings its customers different experiences across its various themed stores. For example, there are regional-featured stores for customers to experience local culture, time-limited crossover stores to buy limited edition drinks and crossover products, and various themed stores (e.g.pink store, black gold store, pet-friendly store) for different targeted groups. This makes exploring HEYTEA stores a surprising and exciting journey for the customers, which is exactly what attracts millennials and not to mention the ability to share the special experience on social media.
HEYTEA is famous for its frequent crossover in product taste, packaging format, and store design. According to Yicai, HEYTEA ran the largest number of crossover campaigns among beverage brands with a total of 54 campaigns across 2017 to 2019, which includes collaborations with F&B brands (e.g. Yakult, M&M’s and Cornetto) and household names from other fields (e.g. makeup, shoes, and fashion clothes). The brands that HEYTEA collaborated with are generally products which customers use in their daily lives. Running crossover campaigns can increase brand visibility and finding a young and attractive brand to collaborate with can also effectively rejuvenate the tea brand.
For example, HEYTEA collaborated with Rihanna’s beauty brand, Fenty Beauty, torelease a limited-edition makeup bag that comes with a limited-edition cream blush and a coupon for a free HEYTEA Cheese & Peach drink. The co-branded Fenty makeup bag was not for sale, and in order to enter the lottery to win it, fans needed to follow both brands’ Weibo accounts and post the picture of HEYTEA Cheese and Peach drink with hashtag #初夏蜜桃微醺妆# (#Summer peach makeup#). In only eight days, the campaign hashtag in Weibo received over 14 million views and 30,000 comments. With the same target audience, the crossover successfully increased exposure of both brands with female millennials.
Competition between tea brands is not only about taste, packaging, and interior design – digitalizationhas also become an inevitable competition ground. HEYTEA started its mini-program in WeChat and launched its own app HEYTEA Go to build membership since 2018. With these two online platforms, customers can order in advance, check the process, and engage with HEYTEA, which decreases the waiting time and enhances the user experience.
In addition, membership registration and online ordering helps HEYTEA build a digital private domain traffic pool (DPDTP) where they can acquire more information from customers, such as their name, gender, phone number, user name on third-party platform (such as WeChat), location, and ordered product. With this massive usage database, HEYTEA can predict preferences more accurately.
For example, HEYTEA can even tell the amount of ice that different consumer segments would prefer in their bubble tea. In a report, they shared that female customers prefer less ice with 14.4% more requests for “de-icing” as compared to men. Using customer data, HEYTEA can launch new products to meet needs based on different segments.
HEYTEA has four outlets in Singapore (2021). How might Singapore beverage players leverage the local advantage to win? Get in touch to discuss further. Binomial is an innovation and creative consultancy. We help businesses identify their unique strengths to build a competitive advantage.
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