U.S. shoe brand Allbirds, best known for its commitment to sustainability, released two special-editions of its signature sneakers to celebrate the upcoming 11.11 Global Shopping Festival.
The San Francisco-based startup is participating in the mega-sale for the first time, after opening its flagship store on Alibaba Group’s e-commerce platform Tmall in April. It created two color combinations for its classic Wool Runners – Fiesta Red and Sky Blue – specifically to celebrate 11.11.
“Instead of relying on cheap, polluting synthetics, we utilize natural materials like New Zealand merino wool, Brazilian sugarcane and South African eucalyptus,” said Joey Zwillinger, an American who co-founded Allbirds and shares CEO duties with New Zealander Tim Brown. “While we understand this is a crowded retail time, we also see huge potential to leverage Tmall to educate shoppers on the Allbirds ethos and our commitment to making ‘better things in a better way.'”
Allbirds officially launched in 2016 with a direct-to-consumer model and quickly gained a following in Silicon Valley, including Google co-founder Larry Page and former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo. Now, even former president Barack Obama and celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh Jackman have been seen wearing its products. Actor and environmental activist Leonardo DiCaprio became an investor. By October 2018, Allbirds had sold a stake to investors at a reported valuation of $1.4 billion. The brand has since expanded to 18 countries around the world, including China.
Zwillinger said they’ve seen “incredible enthusiasm” from Chinese consumers, who are showing growing interest in environmental issues and starting to demand more eco-friendly products.
“Today, Chinese consumers are in pursuit of richer experiences and quality of life. They want to show their uniqueness in more distinct and personalized ways,” he said. “More Chinese consumers, especially younger consumers, prefer to build their social circles through shared interests and topics and have more trust in the evaluation and recommendations from others. As a brand, we need to take a new approach to keep them interested.”
Allbirds leverages Tmall, for example, to not only sell products but to build brand awareness in distinctly Chinese ways. For example, the last month brand tried livestreaming for the first time to better engage consumers and amplify storytelling for its recent “Materialistic” campaign, which encouraged people to rethink consumption and reflect on the source and impact of the products they buy. In recent years, livestreaming has grown into one of the most important ways to reach Chinese consumers.
“We were thrilled to see how Chinese online consumers respond and the types of discussions that surfaced as a result,” Zwillinger said.
He said he also looks forward to collaboration opportunities with the Tmall Innovation Center, a dedicated product-development unit, to explore more analytics-driven and tactical solutions tailored to Chinese consumers.
Tmall is the brand’s first digital sales channel in the country, apart from its own site. It also currently operates four brick-and-mortar retail locations in Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Chengdu.
“We’re just getting started in China,” he said. “The market has been a leader in the evolving retail landscape, which makes it an excellent fit for our brand’s creative ethos.”