Mar 8, 2012

what do you think about tea-of-month club?

I want to ask this question to all of you, because so far I haven't got it yet what product-of-month club means for tea.

I have an impression/guess that the product-of-month club originates from the business of gourmet coffee. For coffee, I can better understand the merits of such a project. I myself am not too picky on the freshness of coffee bean. But I know some coffee aficionados would only use beans that have been roasted within the past few weeks, and would keep the beans in a freezer to retain its freshness. So I guess a big incentive of coffee-of-month club is getting freshly roasted coffee each month. Similar merit doesn't seem to exist in tea.

My thoughts on business are largely based on my own shopping experience and shopping preferences. Inevitably, my thoughts are somehow restricted by my own experience. So I would love to hear from more people what they think about tea-of-month club.

Here are my thoughts -
1. It's a way of giving buyers royalty reward. If someone participates in a tea-of-month club, that means she would buy at least 12 shipments of products each year, and therefore, this program recognizes the most enthusiastic buyers and can possibly use member-only prices or other means to reward them.

However, as a buyer, I would rather have a reward program that tracks the total amount of purchase or the total number of purchase and enjoy discounts accordingly.

That being said, I could see that with all the shipments scheduled at the same time each month, and amount of sales planned ahead of time, it's almost like a group purchase, and saves the buyer a lot of time, labor and operational costs. Therefore, there is greater potential for discount, compared with other reward programs. So this is the biggest advantage I could see from tea-of-month club so far.

2. The buyer can get diverse products from month to month.

However, this is not so big an advantage in my eyes, because as a shopaholic, I would rather pick diverse products whenever I want, instead of on a monthly schedule.

3. The buyer doesn't have to worry about re-ordering, and tea will be delivered monthly.

However, this would be almost a disadvantage for buyers of my style. It almost feels as if the fun of shopping is taken away. I know a famous socks website does this scheduled delivery thing with great success. But that's sock, something you have to buy but would rather not spend too much time on. (Besides most of their buyers are busy, mid-aged males anyway.) But the fun of shopping often lies on things that you do NOT have to buy but would rather spend time on, even if it's just window shopping. For many tea lovers, tea shopping falls in this category, right?

1. Lack of flexibility on the buyer's end about what to obtain each month. What if it's a tea the buyer is not thrilled about?

This problem can be to some degree solved if the program is like a gift card program that the members pay for the tea-of-month club but pick whatever they want each month by themselves. But then, the club will not be very different from other types of royalty rewarding programs.

2. Delivery costs. Since there will be 12 deliveries each month, even if the shipping is said to be free, the cost must be from the buyers (either included in the price or in other forms) eventually. When shopping online, many people would plan carefully and buy the optimal amount each time, so that they don't have to pay for multiple shipments. Many people don't buy from one online store every month. Nowadays shipping is expensive, and I am sure USPS will raise prices again (if not again and again) in the next 2-3 years.

3. Because of the above mentioned delivery costs, it's most likely that only domestic buyers can enjoy such a program.

From the above "however's", probably you can tell I'm not too excited about tea-of-month club. But as I said, my vision is largely constrained by my own experience. So I would love to learn what YOU think about tea-of-month club!


Alex Zorach said...

I personally do not sign up for these sorts of clubs. Even before I started receiving free samples because of my website and blog, my tea consumption (and purchasing) were relatively irregular.

I love ordering samples but I'd rather buy things when I want to. One reason I buy from Upton Tea Imports and love them so much is that they offer such inexpensive samples.

A lot of tea companies have samples that are too pricey. I'm generally not going to pay $5 a pop for a sample (i.e. several cups worth of tea) unless it's a specific tea that I am very strongly motivated to seek out and try.

I also think the shipping / delivery costs raise a good point...both from a cost standpoint and a sustainability / resource usage standpoint.

I order tea infrequently, and when I do, it tends to be a purchase of $50 or more. It just doesn't seem worth it to me to spend less than that, given that shipping tends to cost around $5.

I also agree with your point about it taking away the fun of shopping. I love searching through a catalogue and picking out the samples I want to try.

Sometimes I like it when I get samples of teas I wouldn't ever order, and end up liking them. But I think, in general, I know what I want to try. When companies select samples to send me, my experience is that they usually end up picking things that don't really fit what I'm looking for as well as I could choose myself.

Israel said...

I think a tea-of-the-month club could be a great thing for a beginner. In fact, when I was first starting out, my friends gifted me a yearlong monthly "tea subscription" from Imperial Tea Court. It was a good way to get a sense of the breadth of teas available. Some of the teas were not to my taste, some were fine or even intriguing. It was a good learning tool.

I would probably not sign up for such a thing these days because I like to exercise some choice in the leaves I'm drinking.

Provided the teas are good, this kind of thing can serve as a useful introduction to tea, I think.

Gingko said...

Thanks guys! Those are some good points! I remember there were a few (probably new) tea drinkers who asked me which tea to buy. I usually am not comfortable to point to a specific tea and say "buy this", because I feel it shouldn't be my decision. But then I probably didn't help them much. For some new tea drinkers, probably monthly club would be handy.

Besides, I was thinking, if monthly club could be modified in someway to cater to experienced tea drinkers as well.