NEW YORK: Starbucks, the coffee house chain, is stepping up its efforts to gather consumer insights about the in-store experience.

No matter how attractive a proposal might seem, it must be understood through a basic – but crucial – filter: making sure the amount of time spent waiting in line does not increase.

"The last thing we want to do is put in a new piece of equipment or a process or a programme that's going to make that longer," John Goedert, the firm's manager/operations testing and innovation, told an audience of delegates at the National Retail Federation. (For more, including details about some of Starbucks' favoured research techniques, read Warc's exclusive report: How Starbucks balances automated and human insights.)

Using automated analytics tools in bricks-and-mortar branches promises to provide considerable efficiency benefits when it comes to moving customers through stores, and getting to know them better.

Despite the advantages presented by technologically-advanced solutions, tried and true research methodologies – such as in-person observation – cannot be discounted.

"Whatever you do out there: it acts and looks differently than you think it does in a lab, virtually, online, whatever it may be," Goedert said.

Starbucks has been a pioneer in the mobile space, with its app processing over four million transactions a week. And this area demonstrates why the personal touch remains essential.

"There are apps that are easy to use, and there are clunky ones that don't work. That's because the human still has to actually go touch it and feel it and experience it, and that doesn't go away no matter what," Goedert said.

As successful innovation always requires "balancing intuition with rigour," he thus recommended creating clear processes and procedures that can be consistently applied to all significant changes made in stores.

Data sourced from Warc