Teavana is quickly becoming the face of tea in America. The chain has more than 300 stores in 46 states, and it was acquired by Starbucks last year, which plans to use the chain to create “tea bars” across America.
While that’s a lovely idea, I think Teavana needs to re-think its marketing and sales strategy if it wants to ultimately be successful in the tea industry. Why? I’m a huge tea lover, I live right by a Teavana store, and I never shop there.
It’s not that I don’t want to shop at Teavana. The store has some interesting tea blends and good quality tools, like the tea maker I mentioned in a previous post. Teavana should be a must in my life.
But I don’t go there for two reasons: uncomfortable upselling tactics and pricing.
Teavana is constantly engaging in upselling strategies designed to get more money out of customers. The most commons tactics involve trying to sell you more expensive products and add-ons.
If you want to buy a tea infuser for $15, they’ll try to sell you a steamer for $30. If you want to get the chai tea that is $7 per ounce, they’ll try to make you blend it with another $10 chai. If you want 2 ounces of tea, they’ll put 2.5 ounces in the bag and ask if it’s OK that they went a little over.
Going into Teavana can make you feel like a bug that has unknowingly flown into a spider’s web. The first time I went to one I was so excited. A tea store that only sells loose-leaf and a bunch of cool tea products? Sounds awesome. When I left the store, though, I wasn’t sure I ever wanted to go back.
I started my Teavana experience by trying the tea samples at the store front. Quickly I was approached by an employee with an overeager smile, who steered me toward Teavana’s many expensive appliances, even though I told him I was only interested in a certain chai tea.
After I turned down all those products, he moved me over to the Wall of Tea, where he spent 10 minutes waving aromas of the most expensive teas in my face. I only wanted a cheaper tea, but he made me feel so guilty that I ended up spending $30 on four ounces of tea.
Speaking of price, which is my second main reason for not shopping at Teavana, I was shocked by how expensive the tea was. In my experience, loose-leaf is generally not that pricey. Teavana’s loose-leaf costs about $7 to $9 per ounce, while the tea I buy from a local tea shop costs $7.50 for six ounces.
As I was writing this post, I went online to see if anyone shared this same experience, and I am not alone. Reddit’s tea community dislikes the store for its pushy sales tactics and overpriced items. I also read this eye-opening post from an ex-employee of Teavana that showed the store is focused on high-pressure sales and trains employees to essentially trick customers into buying more.
I think Teavana can do better, and I hope Starbucks changes how this chain is run. As a public relations student, I think the store is poorly managing both its customer and employee relations. Not only do customers often feel uncomfortable there, but I’m sure employees dislike the constant push from management to upsell. This is what I think Teavana should do instead:
Drop the high-pressure sales. Focus on what each individual customer wants. Be our friends. Give us advice. Show us your fancy gadgets, but don’t push them on us. If you build up trust with tea drinkers, we will be your loyal customers and engage with your employees willingly. The bottom line: when it comes to tea, it’s all about community.
This strategy may not lead to the immediate sales created by a pressured environment, but it will foster relationships that will generate more revenue and goodwill over time. And if Teavana becomes a more tea-friendly store, you might just see the Chai Tea Chick perusing its shelves once again.
What have your experiences been like with Teavana? I’m curious. Let me know in the comments.