Tetley has unveiled another first for the tea industry with the appointment of a virtual sales assistant.

The assistant will begin work for them in selected cash & carry wholesalers from next week. The first application goes live in Bestway on December 1.

Featuring an attention grabbing animated gaffer, the new assistant uses the best in technology to attract buyers and point them to the offers to be found in the tea aisle.

The unit itself has a small footprint of just 50cm2 so suitable to site in a variety of locations, but at 1.5m with gaffer’s animation accounting for nearly half of this.

Tetley director and customer and shopper marketing Andrew Pearl said: “The development is part of our programme to create a sense of theatre at point of purchase and stimulate interest in tea.

“It’s a really engaging promotional tool,” he adds, “An in-built sensor tells gaffer when he is on his own so he can call out to passers by to get them to come over and look at the current tea offers he has on his iPad. A number of different scripts have been developed for him and we can manage these remotely to ensure that he is as up to the minute as possible.”

Tetley’s new virtual gaffer will be sited in selected cash & carry initially with further roll out planned for the grocery environment in due course.

“We shall monitor the impact of the new assistant on tea sales and use this to develop further applications,” adds Andrew. “The technology has been proven to increase unit sales by 75% and dwell times by 50%*, so when you add to this the appeal and recognition that gaffer has, you get a powerful marketing tool.”

The technology for the assistant has been developed by customer journey specialist Tensator Group and the graphics by Tetley’s ad agency Creature.

Tensator group marketing manager Rebecca Fennell said: “Our research shows that many of us are becoming de-sensitised to more traditional forms of marketing, so it’s great to see Tetley embracing such an innovative approach.

“The collaboration between ourselves, Tetley and Creature has resulted in a thoroughly modern sales solution for one of the country’s most loved and longstanding brands. It’s a new approach to a great british tradition.”

Tetley is developing a number of initiatives to enhance shopper engagement with tea and is looking to work with a number of customers on specific activities in the coming year.