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STARBUCKS RESEARCH CHALLENGE


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STARBUCKS RESEARCH CHALLENGE


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SOCIAL MEDIA AND THE IN-STORE EXPERIENCE


A team from Starbucks representing business, engineering and design is working on the next release of a mobile app that uses machine learning and analytics to present customers with recommended options in-store. My role was to research current and upcoming trends and provide an actionable guide based on my findings. 

SOCIAL MEDIA AND THE IN-STORE EXPERIENCE


A team from Starbucks representing business, engineering and design is working on the next release of a mobile app that uses machine learning and analytics to present customers with recommended options in-store. My role was to research current and upcoming trends and provide an actionable guide based on my findings. 

THE CHALLENGE

I was tasked with 6 hours to deliver the outline for a research plan based on the provided list of the team’s working assumptions:

  • Business believes partnering with Instagram could deliver an enhanced experience.

  • Design believes in targeting in-store installations, in addition to personal mobile devices.

  • Engineering believes emerging technologies, like beacons and wearables, could enhance the experience. 

RESEARCH & ANALYSIS

I started with a review of current smartphone app features to better understand how the app was currently addressing users needs. My goal being to fully understand what mobile app features were currently available, as not to duplicate, but also to see if there was any growth potential for these features.

The Starbucks app was created in 2011 for one purpose, to enable Starbucks customers to pay for their coffee using their smartphone. The most obvious pro of the Starbucks app is its ease of use. It is incredibly easy to add cash to your loyalty card, and pick up loyalty points (Gold Stars) as you go. Customers build up their stars with each purchase and wind up getting free refills, free food and even free music and games. It’s all to inspire loyalty, and it definitely works. In today’s mile-a-minute world, speedy service is everything, and Starbucks has embraced this completely, reaping the benefits as a direct result. 

GO MOBILE!

There are a total of 6 million registered loyalty program members. A quarter of all transactions at Starbucks are made with loyalty cards. That's a lot of data being collected.

Starbucks segments its customers with the data, and then sets up rules based on their purchase behavior. Then, the customers get offers, usually on their smartphones.

These deals are targeted at customers whose purchasing habits show that they may not be coming back soon. Loyalists who constantly go to Starbucks don't get the deals, since the coffee-seller isn't worried about losing them.

Currently, about 80,000 new members join each week, according to Starbucks chief digital officer.

Starbucks knows the next hot neighborhood before everybody else does. The Starbucks team explained that while they have 20 or so analytics experts around the world poring over maps and geographic information systems data—assessing factors like an area’s traffic patterns and businesses. 

PERSONALIZATION

The 'My Starbucks Idea,' is set up for customers to exchange ideas, helped the company understand customer needs and concerns. Such a strategy could have been dangerous if the company had ignored the customers' suggestions.

The 'My Starbucks Signature' initiative, allows customers to create their own personalized drinks. It showcases the Starbucks assortment of products and creates an interactive experience that involves customers in product creation. In doing this it not only teaches them how to order such drinks, it makes it a fun activity that can be shared with friends.

If there is anything that can be learned from this initiative it’s that personalization is something that brands are going to need to provide their customers if they want to find great success. We are living in a consumer driven world, if you’re not offering your customers with options then they’re going to go else where to get what they want. This holds extremely true with coffee shops and any business that is in a hyper- competitive market. 

SOCIAL MEDIA

Starbucks has been a leader of incorporating digital marketing and social media into its operations for some time now, allowing it to almost seamlessly merge its brick and mortar stores with the numerous digital marketing channels available. The company has also been adept at developing relationships with its customers by using the latest technology and social media platforms.

The real power of social media is that it allows companies to possibly develop new products, and new revenue streams, by observing how customers interact with their product(s) and listening to their feedback. It can also provide new avenues for bi- directional communication and deeper interaction with customers, fostering a closer relationship. An additional benefit is that agile companies can use all of these elements to more easily reposition a brand as a commercial environment changes. 

The real power of social media is that it allows companies to possibly develop new products, and new revenue streams, by observing how customers interact with their product(s) and listening to their feedback.

DISCOVERY & LEARNINGS

Just sitting at a Starbucks and watching folks interact, it’s noticeable that people enjoy their in-store experience. There is human connection with baristas, and other customers. Baristas can recommend their favorite drink, make a suggestion, or put a twist on the users regular drink. There is also sensory and tactile experience with Starbucks products that a customer can miss with the app. I would compare the experience of going into the store vs. completing an order via app, and note the differences in level of satisfaction with the order, as well as customer takeaway.

PROPOSED RESEARCH PLAN

One of the most important steps in any new development effort is to identify the needs of the target audience. This can and should be done before any design or development takes place. As a Starbucks drinker myself, I can imagine what the customer wants and needs but there is no substitute for getting input directly from actual users themselves.

Needs Analysis: Observe behaviors in their natural contexts without any intervention or influence by the researcher and without participants knowing that they’re being observed. 

TAKEAWAYS FOR TEAM DISCUSSION

  • Video of partners behind the scenes preparing the new menu items.

  • Instagram collaborations facilitate cross-business promotions.

  • Discounts for certain hashtag use.

  • Partnering with local business to cross promote goods.

  • Wearables could tie into beacons somehow.

  • Starbucks branded smart coffee makers that reorder when low.

  • App could advise you off traffic and help you place your order while commuting.