Starbucks engages shoppers

09 June 2011

SEATTLE: Starbucks, the coffee house chain, is focusing on customer service, innovation and personalisation as tools to engage shoppers.

Speaking with Forbes magazine, Annie Young-Scrivner, Starbucks' chief marketing officer, argued paying attention to the individual was an essential component of its outlook.

"We serve 60m customers every week across 55 countries, which means that we have an opportunity 60m times a week to make the Starbucks experience perfect for them," she said.

"We truly believe that when we deliver an amazing experience we can have a positive impact on someone's day and that they, in turn, can pass on the positive momentum starting a ripple effect that can potentially start a movement."

More broadly, establishing a clear proposition applicable to all key stakeholders has been a major objective, and one regaining considerable impetus after Howard Schultz's return as chief executive.

"We really think a lot about who we are at our core," Young-Scrivner said.

"So much of what we believe in is the humanity of our brand. It's the relationships we build with our customers, the communities we operate in and, of course, our partners."

The company, now the third largest restaurant group worldwide, has embraced a variety of interactive platforms to explain its vision and construct a genuine rapport with netizens.

"We are taking the emotional connection we've created inside our stores and expanding it beyond our stores," Young-Scrivner continued.

As a highly successful early adopter of such a model, Starbucks currently boasts over 22m Facebook "Likes" in the US, 1.5m Twitter followers, and 30m social media fans globally.

"We feel privileged that … [our] followers have invited us into their daily lives to participate in a dialogue," said Young-Scrivner.

"We continue to stay focused on the authenticity of our communication, ensuring we are talking with our customers and not at them."

An extension of this notion is MyStarbucksIdea, an online hub asking that consumers submit suggestions for products or improvements to the in-store environment.

Some 150,000 submissions have been received thus far, resulting in the roll out of items like Starbucks Petites, a "midday" treat, and the relaunch of the Mocha Coconut Frappuccino due to popular demand.

"We review these ideas, let them percolate, so to speak, and align them with trends we're seeing around the globe to determine which to launch," said Young-Scrivner.

During Schultz's second spell as chief executive, the organisation has closed under-performing stores, outlined intentions to move forcefully into the grocery sector, and ramped up its emphasis on markets like India and China.

"Innovation is part of our heritage; we plan to continue that tradition. We look at our stores around the world for best practices to see what might work elsewhere," said Young-Scrivner.

"You can't get too comfortable."

This attitude must be balanced with retaining the initial appeal to loyal buyers, both in simple ways such as guaranteeing popular holiday food and drink lines return each year, and covering the wider range of relevant touchpoints.

"It's a privilege to work for a company where the customers are so engaged. Customers feel personal about us; this is my store, or this is my chair," said Young-Scrivner.

"Personalisation is an intrinsic part of our brand."

Data sourced from Forbes; additional content by Warc staff