T2 was established by two women, Maryanne Shearer and Jan O’Connor, in 1996, with a small store in Fitzroy, Melbourne. From day one, they focused strongly on engaging with and satisfying their customers who shared their passion for the humble tea leaf.
The brand has successfully positioned itself as a premium artistic and B Corp-certified business, providing sustainably and ethically sourced products of premium quality to align with its purpose of ‘Creating a generation of tea lovers to unite the world for good.’ From classic black teas to matcha and wellness and tea accessories, the brand provides everything a tea aficionado could need.
Their success and growth led to the purchase of the brand by the multinational consumer goods powerhouse Unilever, with over 400 global consumer brands, including other tea brands. T2 maintains its unique identity and purpose as a sustainable and creative premium brand that differentiates it from competitors. As John Tait added, ‘This brand turns tea into art. We have a lot of funky tea makers, through to traditional tea products. We put a lot of focus into the artwork and artists who design our tea wares’.
Additionally, a lot of conscious thought and effort goes into the sustainability of T2 products. John elaborated, ‘Anything that goes in there has been recycled, and all the materials are recyclable. So you won’t even find a staple in our tea bag. We are a B-Corp Certified business and follow those very stringent standards.’
Today, this Australian-grown brand is more than a household name for tea worldwide. On the global stage, they are a strong example of an organisation maintaining its focus on consistent quality and driving a positive impact on the planet while continuing to grow.
T2 originally focused on physical stores in a pre-pandemic world. Customers visited T2 shops to view, sample and purchase products. The brand proudly created artistic spaces for premium quality experiences. Taste the tea, inhale the aromas and look at the beautiful teapots. Talk with salespeople about the products; which tea or infusion is most relaxing? Which accessories would be the best gifts? The entire decision-making process occurred within those carefully curated retail spaces.
Then, during the COVID-19 pandemic, retail behaviours rapidly changed as people adapted to social distancing mandates. Many more people began regularly shopping online rather than visiting brick-and-mortar shops. That particular phase of the pandemic required everyone to adapt – including the T2 brand.
Until that point, online and in-person shopping provided separate inventory and distribution of products. While T2 had made efforts to provide consumers with a digital route to their products, they were far from optimised and in sync with their physical operations. As John shared, ‘We were very lucky and pivoted to working from home because we had the backbone to do it, but it forced a lot of leadership and expectation change around defining outcomes.’
The T2 online shopping functions thrived in the pandemic because eCommerce went through the roof, including opportunities such as wholesale and through the marketplace. To cater to and capitalise on this digital surge, T2 knew they needed to continue their customer satisfaction-driven approach and listen and learn from customers in this new digital-driven retail era.
The business needed more decentralised logistics to easily connect products with customers in a reliable, cost-effective way. T2 needed an API-led solution to unify its fulfilment and inventory processes for stores, head office and more. This included improving the Last-Mile Delivery cost, speed and reliability.
T2’s management did their due diligence in knowing what they wanted to achieve before choosing a partner to implement changes. They had built a strong loyalty program and worked on analysing and understanding customer data so that their digital transformation would provide more value to tea enthusiasts.
John and his team needed an experienced partner to help drive the transformation. As John shared, ‘I needed really first and foremost a strong and reliable, intellectually capable partner to work with.’ This led them to develop and engage with a short list of candidates. After reviewing the details, MakeSense stood out and was selected to guide T2 on its digital transformation journey.
The MakeSense team quickly endeared themselves to T2 with their professionalism and how rapidly they could ‘analyse and understand the T2 landscape.’ They analysed the T2 digital ecosystem and reached conclusions and understandings about flaws in the complex system and the best path forward. John was confident they had found the partner he needed ‘to fix what needed fixing.’
With help from MakeSense, T2 set out to unite the customer experiences and supply chain across the online store and the brand’s many physical stores.
MakeSense created a robust API integration solution that enabled the entire T2 organisation to access data stuck in silos across separate legacy systems. They rebuilt the brand’s IT operations to become a more efficient and reliable system.
This technology allowed retail store staff to pack and send products for online sales using in-store inventory. This ship-from-store fulfilment became a more efficient allocation of resources. When staff packed and shipped orders from brick-and-mortar stores, they effectively leveraged the retail locations as agile warehouses for digital customers. It prevented waste as they could use the shop space for more purposes, especially when stores lacked the usual foot traffic they experienced pre-COVID.
This system also improved consumer and local T2 staff relationships for a more human experience. If customers picked up an online order from a local store, they could engage local staff with any concerns. This dialogue became possible as the local stores gained sufficient information from the newly integrated computer network.
The technology from MakeSense also centralised real-time pricing and discounts to achieve consistency. Everyone could ‘talk’ and cooperate with each other’s operations in one system. They could know what products were available and where. Accurate pricing could be seen at any physical store or online platform.
Consumers gained more value from local fulfilment of online orders, encouraging profitable loyalty and continuing their long-held passion for enriched customer experiences with the brand. With so many challenges and changes to everyone’s lives during the COVID pandemic, the continued availability of quality products alongside a personalised experience from T2 for their loyal customer base was meaningful and important.
MakeSense delivered a new approach to unify fulfilment, distribution and inventory management and enable an omnichannel customer experience across eCommerce and physical stores. By creating an integrated sales experience for their digital customers, they enhanced the customer experience, got products to them faster, and made the customer experience a key differentiator against their competition regardless of the customer’s chosen path to purchasing.
Once this digital retailing and distribution evolution was deployed, the benefits were significant. Inventory distribution and management were optimised through automated processes enabling faster, more efficient transactions with reduced shipping times and costs.
The centralised pricing and discounts could be rolled out in real-time through eCommerce updates and in-store simultaneously, which assisted in increased sales and product turnover.
For T2 to retain their reliable, excellent customer experiences and enhance them during a considerably stressful time was graciously appreciated by their customer base, who could still enjoy their favourite cup of tea while navigating the pandemic-inflicted changes.
MakeSense created an integrated connected system that unified the T2 brand across digital and brick-and-mortar channels. The API approach supports a consistent experience wherever customers interact with the brand – the shops across Australia, at the online store or through the loyalty program. Their new API-driven decentralised logistics system allows the brand to bring more products to the people in a faster, more reliable, and more affordable direction.
Thanks to their innovative API technology, MakeSense empowered T2 to survive and thrive in the pandemic and beyond. The established brand can now unite people across online and offline worlds. However their customers choose to shop, they can rely on T2 to provide what they need and enjoy a personalised experience.
T2 truly is about purpose, planet, people and product. MakeSense APIs empower T2 to live out those values in all their work. The brand continues to provide creative, sustainable products that help people feel calm in a crisis, celebrate milestones and appreciate expressive art. T2 appreciated their collaborative partnership with MakeSense. They worked together to reach a united goal of bringing consistent, sustainable creative value for customers anywhere in Australia.