Starbucks, the US coffee chain, has launched its first virtual store in China. The company also announced that it is teaming up with Uber Eats to deliver drinks from 2,000 of its US stores.

The company provided details about the China and US initiatives in two statements that coincided with its biennial investor day in New York last Thursday.

Its new virtual store in China builds on the strategic partnership that Starbucks struck with Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba earlier this year and, as part of that collaboration, will see the unification of Starbucks’ app and those within the Alibaba ecosystem, including Taobao, Tmall and Alipay.

The aim is to provide customers with a unified, one-stop, digital experience, which includes services such as “Starbucks Delivers”, “Say it with Starbucks” social gifting, a digital rewards program and merchandise available from Starbucks’ flagship store on Tmall.

“This ground-breaking digital collaboration with Alibaba Group unlocks new levels of engagement unseen in the marketplace today with customers,” Starbucks said.

While digitally savvy Chinese consumers are expected to benefit from a more seamless experience when ordering their coffee, Starbucks will gain from being able to track sales and searches more effectively when they come from a single gateway.

In addition, the company said it expects the strong membership referral pipeline from Alibaba “to fuel an exponential growth in its Rewards membership in China”.

“Leveraging the strengths of our transformative strategic partnership with Alibaba Group, this new milestone in the Starbucks digital strategy will significantly fuel our capabilities to provide an even more personalised and enticing one-touch digital experience for the Chinese consumer,” said Molly Liu, Starbucks China’s VP of digital venture.

Starbucks also revealed that its partnership with the on-demand delivery platform meant it is now delivering from 2,000 stores across 30 cities in China, having launched just three months ago.

With its delivery operations proving a success in China, the company wants to do the same in its home market and revealed plans to roll out a delivery service to about 2,000 of its US stores, or about a quarter of its entire US estate. This follows a successful pilot Starbucks conducted with Uber Eats in Miami in September.

Sourced from Starbucks, Wall Street Journal; additional content by WARC staff