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  • Writer's pictureKate Hughes

MEET THE CLIENT: ALIX THOMPSON-BURN, BIRD & BLEND TEA CO. AND THE POWER OF UNIFIED DATA

Alix Thompson-Burn is Head of Digital at Bird & Blend Tea Co, a hugely successful, fast-growing independent tea company that's spreading happiness and re-imagining tea. Having started her career in digital trading and analytics at Topshop / Topman, Alix has held various senior digital roles for several leading brands and retailers. She joined Bird & Blend in February 2023.  

 

Photo of Alix Thompson-Burn standing in front of Bird & Blend Tea Co tea wall

As the inspiration behind Datitude’s Excel Add-in and real-time trading dashboard, it’s a real pleasure to feature Alix in this series.  We caught up with her to discuss her career, life at Bird & Blend, her experience working with Datitude's data platform and why “would you like a cup of tea?” is serious business in her house.


Tell us how you got to where you are today.

I’d always wanted to work in fashion and started my career in digital with Topshop / Topman.  Overall, I spent 10 years with the company.  It was a brilliant time to be in digital; the channel was experiencing huge growth, it was a key strategic focus area for the business and the digital team grew ten-fold during my time there.

 

I left to join Pandora but was enticed back to Topshop / Topman by the Digital Director who was looking to create a dedicated analytics function for the business.  As Analytics Manager I was responsible for setting up this new function.  It was a brilliant opportunity and forged my career in broad, cross-functional digital and analytics roles.

 

I went on to join Warehouse (part of Aurora Fashion) as Analytics and Customer Insights Manager.  It was another new, and exciting role in a growing business investing heavily in its brand.  I was subsequently promoted to Head of Digital and ultimately became Digital Director.  Sadly, just weeks into the first lockdown, Warehouse went into administration; one of many retail casualties of the pandemic.

 

Being pregnant with my first child and unexpectedly out of work was challenging.  Whilst I did some freelance work initially, I was fortunate to be offered the opportunity to join Albaray; an amazing, sustainable womenswear brand growing at speed, as Head of Digital.  I’d worked with the trio of female founders at Warehouse, hence the opportunity to join the business before the brand’s launch. 

 

Joining a start-up was a totally different, but equally exciting experience.  It was cool being so hands-on again - from setting up the website, building the marketing function, managing performance marketing to establishing digital concessions.  It was the perfect role and provided the flexibility I needed at that time.  Plus, the brand is all about being more thoughtful and taking a more environmentally conscious approach to fashion, which is increasingly important to me.  It was interesting working for a new business focused on establishing sustainable practices and processes, like ethically sourced fabrics, from the outset, and how, from a product perspective, this is communicated to consumers across digital.  And from Albaray, I joined Bird & Blend.


After many years in apparel, what attracted you to join Bird & Blend Tea Co? 

Many things appealed to me, even though I wasn’t looking for a new role.  Bird & Blend’s co-founders were building a senior leadership team to support the next growth stage and the Head of Digital was the first of several new roles being created.

 

I was attracted to this local, founder-led business with strong community roots.  Having moved from London to Brighton during the pandemic, I knew first-hand how active Bird & Blend is in the community – as well as two stores in Brighton and The Nest (our head office and café) in nearby Worthing, both founders are high profile in the business c Tea Community here.  Sustainability is in Bird & Blend’s DNA with people and the planet, not just profit, at the forefront of decision-making.  Bird & Blend is a B Corp Certified business and features in The Sunday Times Best Places to Work 2024.

 

Culturally the fit felt good, and the opportunity to be part of a new leadership team was exciting too.  It is an amazing business and a great place to work.  Like at Albaray, it’s refreshing working for smaller, fast-scaling, businesses and leading teams in an agile environment.


And how’s it going at Bird & Blend Tea Co?

It’s flying by!  The digital team has grown to reflect growing marketing demands and to recognise the need for dedicated, specialist resources in core disciplines.  Customer Services has also come under my remit given our digital channel growth and the increase in enquiries coming through this channel.  Plus, it’s important to have full visibility of the customer experience.


Let’s talk about the business of tea! How many tea flavours are there and how are they created?

Bird & Blend has one hundred core teas and matchas.  This increases with seasonal specials, like our crème egg and hot-cross bun teas at Easter.   And we do some fabulous collaborations with partners, like our retro sweet collaboration (think Refreshers, Love Hearts, Parma Violets and Drumsticks) with Swizzels, which is stocked in all Selfridges’ stores (online and physical). 



There's an amazing product development team whose ability to match flavours is incredible.  Ideas for new flavours can be influenced by any number of things including what’s trending, strategic partnerships, limited editions to celebrate special events, or the beneficial properties of a core ingredient.  The team run tasting sessions in the office, so we get to test new ideas and give feedback.  Krisi Smith, co-founder, is the ultimate nose and taste expert for what goes to market.


So do you drink tea, and what’s your favourite?

Whilst I quite liked tea when I joined Bird and Blend, I absolutely love it now!  I think my friends secretly dread being asked if they’d like a cup of tea because it’s such a ritual in our home!  Of course, I love to explain and spread the joy of all our amazing flavours, even if they do still choose a Great British Cuppa.

 

One of my current favourites is Apple Strudel tea.  It’s a rooibos and caffeine-free so provides a sweet alternative and helps me to reduce my caffeine intake in the evening.  My all-time favourite for an everyday, classic breakfast tea is Earl Grey Crème.  It’s creamy and very fragrant.

 

Bird & Blend's Magical Matcha Selection Box


I’ve also started drinking matcha (a traditional ground Japanese green tea) since joining the company.  Bird & Blend has the UK’s largest range of flavoured matcha and runs tasting demos in-store to showcase the range, including how to whisk up the perfect matcha at home.  While our best-selling matcha is Pure Grade – a classic, unflavoured, ceremonial grade matcha, we do some lovely flavoured matcha, like our Ice Cream matcha which has a creamy, light vanilla flavour. 





You’ve worked with Datitude’s data platform at Warehouse and Bird & Blend Tea Co.  What’s your view of the platform and the team?

The way we use Datitude's data platform at Bird & Blend is different to how it was used at Warehouse.  At Warehouse it was used for reporting and measurement. The main driver for Datitude’s platform at Bird & Blend initially was to join our data across store and ecommerce systems to give us a trusted, unified customer view.

 

Like many brands and retailers, offline and online weren’t connected so we lacked visibility of the omnichannel customer, for example, what proportion of our business they account for, how profitable they are, and their purchase behaviour across both channels, all key to informing marketing strategies. 

 

We wanted a data solution that would enable us to use our in-store data from Revel (our POS) and connect it to our Shopify data.   Of course, the data analytics we get from connecting, integrating and unifying our data across all channels is a bonus.

 

With Datitude’s platform, we now have full visibility of our multichannel customers and understand their true value compared to store-only and online-only customers.  Multichannel brands and retailers typically find their multichannel customers are the most profitable.  By connecting our online and offline data, we can drive growth in the right areas and ensure customers are experiencing the best of our online and store channels. 

 

For example, you can’t replicate our in-store tea wall experience online.  It’s why we provide a range of in-store events and workshops and encourage customers to come into our stores to smell and taste all our blends.  Whereas, our web store provides the convenience of our full product range, including our gifts collection, tea tools, accessories, and monthly tea-tasting subscription.

 

We have an amazingly loyal fan base and run a secret, invite-only, website to engage and reward our fans with exclusive offers (for example, early or exclusive access to new, limited edition and vintage blends) and store events just for them.  It’s a powerful approach to loyalty.

 

"The Datitude team are incredibly easy to work with.  They are flexible and understand different businesses’ needs.  Having worked with Datitude at very different businesses (sector, size, and growth stage), there’s a definite willingness to adapt their solution and service to what is most useful to each business.  It’s part of the reason I wanted to work with Datitude again.  That, and the team’s expertise in data integration and analytics, and knowing Datitude can be trusted to deliver. " 

Can you give us an example of a recent use case using unified data in Datitude's platform? 

Now that we have a single view of our customers, one recent use case that’s proved very successful is a campaign encouraging in-store customers who’ve purchased one of our top products to write a product review.  This is something we could previously only achieve for our online customers. 


Having this data 'joined up' has given us much richer information about what customers are purchasing across channels and to use this to get more varied reviews and wider review coverage. Research shows consumers are more likely to buy from a brand with good social proof and campaigns like this help us to build brand trust, drive conversion, and improve and grow our offering.


What's in store for Bird & Blend Tea Co?

Continuing our high-growth trajectory by doing what we’re best at – reimagining tea and spreading happiness, whether that’s in-store, online, through our brand collaborations, wholesale and trade partnerships, or on the road at markets and festivals with our mobile tea van ‘Birdie’. 


As a business we’re seeing huge growth in all categories, but particularly in matcha where it’s triple-digit. We’re excited to see how we develop and grow our place in this market, and we’ve big plans to add to our estate of 19 stores. 



 

It’s always a pleasure talking to our clients and shining a light on their people and brands.  Our sincerest thanks go to Alix for talking to us, and for being the inspiration behind Datitude’s Excel Add-in and real-time dashboard! 


If you’re inspired to reimagine your cup of tea (or matcha), check out Bird & Blend’s website.

 

To find out more about Datitude's work with Bird & Blend and be inspired by what’s possible with your data, head over to our client page.

 

Datitude connects, integrates, and unifies data so you can get what you need from your data when you want it – quickly, easily and securely.  If you need help fulfilling your data needs, call us on +44 (0)20 3003 5000 or email hello@datitude.co.uk.



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