Ecommerce Helps Tea Distributor Expand His Customer Reach

Liu Pao tea in baskets
Jet (in green shirt) prepping for his video on opening new Liu Pao tea baskets

Client: Chin Bee Tea

The Challenge:

Chin Bee Tea is one of the four official Malaysian tea distributors for China Tea (Wuzhou), a major tea producer in China. They’ve been in the Liu Pao tea business for more than 30 years and it is a family-run business (they also operate a Chinese style restaurant which complements their tea sales).

One of their main challenges was marketing their Liu Pao teas.

Jet, one of the owners, inherited the tea business from his father. His father used to distribute the teas locally to dim sum eateries and Chinese restaurants in George Town. However, this was not the marketing that Jet was fond of. He is in his 30s and he knew the next growth phase for his business was online.

Jet started by putting teas for sale on his Facebook page. Initially, this seemed encouraging as his customers and friends started sharing his posts and commenting actively.

The problem started when everyone asked him to PM them!

Although he knew the answers were in the comments under his post, each prospective buyer couldn’t be bothered to scroll through the previous comments. Instead, they wanted to personally message him with their own list of questions!

He kept repeating himself over and over to each new person who was interested in his tea. So what was initially a good idea became a major time hog and not all who asked were genuine prospects. Some just asked for fun or to check prices.

Jet was kept busy answering a long list of questions each time he posted up his tea product! And he was usually tired out by the time he needed to open his restaurant in the evening.

Sometimes, people would ask Jet to reserve the teas for them. However, he couldn’t take their payment as he didn’t have a method to do so.

Sometimes these “reservations” didn’t work out and he lost major sales when people changed their minds.

The Solution:

Most businesses don’t usually consider using a system to help them handle marketing. Everyone wants to do marketing manually. This is fine if you only have a handful of customers. What happens when you have hundreds of customers and each one wants your time? And what if you want to grow your customer base beyond Penang?

We suggested to Jet that he use a custom-designed e-commerce website to help him drive sales as well as save time. With an e-commerce system, he could get money easily instead of asking people to bank into his account.

With a website, he doesn’t have to post up his products on his Facebook page anymore. Instead, he has completely eliminated the need to PM each person each time he has new products.

Whenever a new product gets updated on his website, he announces this new product with a link back to his website. All interested buyers can check out the product, its description, stock available and even watch videos.

This has saved him a lot of time.

He doesn’t need to manually keep track of his available tea stock – the e-commerce system does this all for him. When the stock reaches zero, the system automatically puts up a SOLD OUT notice on the product listing.

He has also managed to attract new customers – some as far as Kuala Lumpur and Johor – with his website. A credible website with the right design and content (words, images and videos) gives prospects and customers a reason to trust you.

We asked Jet to invest in a portable mini photo studio to ensure all his tea product photos are clear and sharp. Nothing spoils the e-commerce experience than a blurred image. Also, multiple images are needed for each product such as tea leaves, brewed tea, tea brick appearance and more.

Two weeks ago, a new customer snapped up a premium tea product worth RM1,000 from his e-commerce website in less than 5 minutes after Jet posted about the product on his Facebook page.

Besides developing a website that makes Chin Bee Tea stand out distinctively online, there is also the marketing.

Marketing must be consistent and ongoing. Part of the strategy is in using carefully selected and high-quality images as well as implementing a video strategy (videos will be filmed and updated weekly to create excitement and layer on more credibility).

Nic affixing the microphone to Jet's shirt for the video filming sessions
Nic affixing the microphone to Jet’s shirt for the video filming sessions

Jet has always been a shy person but we managed to get him to be a star in his own videos. He is tasked with educating people about his teas especially Liu Pao tea which he is an expert in. To his credit, he has been an active participant in marketing his own tea business.

If you’re thinking of trying e-commerce, note that it’s not as easy as it looks. Below is a list of what Redbox Studio and Chin Bee Tea engage in on a weekly basis:

  • Planning tea products for the next 3 months (very much like an editorial calendar, mind you)
  • Planning videos to film (we usually film a batch of 3 videos at one time)
  • Describing tea flavour and profile
  • Researching keywords to enhance the findability of this tea listing (organic SEO plays a huge role and this is where we are experts at)
  • Planning photography for the tea product (multiple images are needed for each product listing)
  • Processing and scheduling videos to Youtube
  • Creating blog posts for these videos
  • Promoting these blog posts on social media actively
  • Processing orders that come in (Chin Bee Tea will pack and post the orders immediately)
  • Ensuring orders are received by the customers
  • Answering enquiries, emails and more

So e-commerce is certainly not a one-man or one-woman show.

It is a team effort with a front-end and back-end processing. We handle the front-end stuff (website, emails, SEO, video, blog) while Chin Bee Tea handles the back-end stuff (packing, posting, following up, FB marketing).

nic sim & jet ong
Jet with Nic at a recent Marketing Mojo, an event we organise quarterly to help entrepreneurs with marketing

We will be sharing more innovative marketing strategies with Chin Bee Tea so look out for more interesting things on his website.

The Results:

  • Newer customers from all over Malaysia (KL and Johor with some highly interested Singaporean buyers too)
  • A highly systematic and open way of marketing his tea
  • Save time
  • Able to sell more tea in a shorter time
  • Less frustration and inconvenience
  • An enhanced perception and higher credibility with an attractive website
  • Ability to take pre-orders even before stocks arrive (resulting in better cash flow management)

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