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[16 comments]

Starbucks customers get charged up over new service

June 12, 2014

Starbucks has long positioned itself as the place between home and work where customers can buy themselves a coffee and hang out for an extended period of time. Now, those customers and others will have another reason to hang at Starbucks. The chain announced it is rolling out wireless phone chargers in its cafes across the U.S.

"From WiFi and the in-store Starbucks Digital Network to mobile payment and digital music downloads, we have always tried to anticipate our customers' needs early in the adoption curve and provide a world-class solution. We are thrilled to offer our customers that next level of convenience with Powermat wireless charging. Rather than hunting around for an available power outlet, they can seamlessly charge their device while enjoying their favorite food or beverage offering right in our stores," said Adam Brotman, chief digital officer at Starbucks, in a statement.

Starbucks and Teavana stores in the Boston and San Jose markets already have the technology from Duracell Powermat. The equipment, according to Starbucks, complies with open standards supported by AT&T, Blackberry, HTC, Huawei, LG, Microsoft, Qualcomm, Samsung, TI and ZTE. Customers charge wirelessly by placing their mobile devices on tables and counters in designated areas of the store.

 

"Starbucks is a highly regarded global brand and its decision to roll out a Powermat network is both empowering and transformative for consumers and the mobile industry as a whole," said Jeff Howard, vice president, Mobile Devices and Accessories, AT&T Mobility, in a statement. "Many of our newer devices have compatible technology either embedded or available as an added feature to give consumers the freedom to charge wirelessly. Today's announcement marks an important time for our customers — they will have the freedom to stay charged effortlessly in Starbucks stores nationwide over time."

FINANCIALS:     [NASDAQ:SBUX] [ ]

Discussion Questions:

How does offering "early adoption" tech services affect Starbucks' brand image? Do you think wireless phone chargers will have a positive effect on customer traffic as well as time spent in the company's stores?

While we value unfettered opinion, we urge you to show respect and courtesy for people or companies about whom you comment. Keep in mind that this is a public, professional business discussion. RetailWire reserves the right to edit or refuse the publication of remarks that we deem unsuitable. We may also correct for unintended spelling and grammatical errors.

Instant Poll:

What grade would you give Starbucks for using technology to improve the customer's experience of the brand?

Comments:

In a word, BRILLIANT. Most importantly, the Powermat technology is consistent not only with Starbucks' brand image, it adds two very important things:

  1. Creates yet another reason to go to Starbucks.
  2. Literally creates even more stickiness to stay and consume.

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Chris Petersen, PhD, President, Integrated Marketing Solutions

It is great for the Starbucks image and it will keep people a little longer in their stores. The next step would be to team up with RadioShack and have their technicians there to help fix whatever goes wrong with one's phone, tablet or laptop. A new form of one stop shopping!

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Frank Riso, Principal, Frank Riso Associates, LLC

Starbucks has always been seen as an early adopter. From loyalty cards to paying with a smartphone, Starbucks has taken the lead. Offering wireless phone chargers is another logical step. My only concern is whether this will cause customers to linger longer, making already crowded stores impossible to navigate.

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Max Goldberg, President, Max Goldberg & Associates

What's not to love about that?

Some retailers measure revenue per square foot. I'd love to know what the revenue per hour of customer presence is at Starbucks. I think it just went down exponentially.

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Ian Percy, President, The Ian Percy Corporation

Clearly, like all good strategic policies, it reinforces the brand's image. Starbucks has always identified closely with the digerati, hi-tech customer.

The initial benefit seems to be for existing customers. It's hard to imagine somebody running in just to charge a device. It will also clearly increase dwell time.

The question is, is that what Starbucks needs? If a customer buys one sip of coffee and possibly one refill but camps in a seat for half a day, is Starbucks really advancing its cause?

We'll set aside the problem of stolen devices for a moment (although I think that is an issue) and conjure up a vision of charging stations at airports - always the most hotly contested real estate in a terminal. People tend to plug in and squat, frustrating those with low batteries and no airline club cards.

The wireless chargers reduce this problem, but only by degrees. You still have to be close to get a charge.

So, I say, while the service is consistent with the brand image, the problems it might cause aren't.

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Ryan Mathews, Founder, ceo, Black Monk Consulting

Another great example of Starbucks having a relentless focus on every element of the customer experience, and continuing to be viewed as a smart, early adopter of technology important to its customers.

Integrating wireless charging technology into the stores is an elegant way of removing the inconvenience of having to find one of just a few outlets, usually placed in awkward locations, thereby elevating the quality of the brand experience.

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Jeff Hall, President, Second To None

Finding a seat near a power outlet is a challenge at many locations. Airports have tried to add more outlets or charging stations. Providing a wireless option seems like a good solution and is likely to encourage people to stay longer, or to come when they need to recharge their batteries. This is a good move to continue the idea of Starbucks as a third place.

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Camille P. Schuster, Ph.D., President, Global Collaborations, Inc.

Amazing! Starbucks hits another home run. This will increase their store activity. My only concern is how much longer are people going to stay in the store and not make added purchases? I can see traffic increasing more than sales.

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Ed Rosenbaum, CEO, The Customer Service Rainmaker, Rainmaker Solutions

Finally, a solution to plug-free airports! Like McDonald's, Starbucks knows that continual reinvention is key to longevity in retail. They're doing a great job; I really admire this company.

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Cathy Hotka, Principal, Cathy Hotka & Associates

Every once in a while, any popular brand needs to prove to their loyal customers why they deserve their continued loyalty. Sometimes it's little things to prove that they are continuing to be customer focused. Wireless chargers won't make or break the brand, but it proves that Starbucks continues to think about their customer. It may be a small convenience, but small things add up.

Some of what Starbucks is:

  • Great product
  • Great service
  • Comfortable environment (chairs, tables, etc.)
  • WiFi
  • Forward thinking/technology (the way you pay, wireless charger and more)

And more.

Beyond the product, everything else falls into the customer experience. Everything! Kudos for Starbucks for their focus on the customer.

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Shep Hyken, Chief Amazement Officer, Shepard Presentations, LLC

New technologies give us great new tools. But sometimes they give us horrendous stress. These days, what is more stressful than watching the battery icon on your mobile phone go from green to orange to red? And, why does it always seem to happen when you can't charge it? (Okay, silly question.)

The anchor on the news this morning was complaining how he went through his iPhone power twice yesterday. Now all he has to do is pop into SBUX. I suspect he, and of course others, will buy at least a cup of coffee.

Hmmm. Do you think they will let you have a cup of coffee until your phone recharges and so you can pay with your SBUX app?

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Gene Detroyer, Professor, Independent

Absolutely! And though I don't have anything else to add, I love Frank's comment about RadioShack. Drop by Starbucks, have a chai latte, get a little work done and meet the repair man. Cool is my 2 cents!

Lee Kent, Let's meet share and succeed in Retail, YourRetailAuthority

Starbucks is not just a perceived leader in early adoption of tech services, they are a leader. Retailers of all types could take a lesson from them. It is not just about delivering it early, it is about anticipating your customers' needs and delivering them ahead of that expectation.

Customers seek a Starbucks location for many other reasons than just a beverage. For many, it is just the place to be. Why? Because they have created the perception and the reality that it is just that.

Now, if they could just anticipate my need for a Dark Roast coffee after 1:00 PM in the afternoon. Not that a Pike's Place is all that bad, but Dark Roast is always better and better for me. A Starbucks pour over is a Dark Roast no one needs. Maybe the chargers will help with that also?

'Scanner'

Am I the only one who sees this as redundant with every cafe in town with an open electrical outlet?

'swagv'

I think this fits well with the brand image. Hip and cool and "look ma, no wires!" I've never seen the correlation between time in the shop vs. spend but can only imagine it is better the longer someone is in the store. My kitchen research, though, points in the opposite direction. How many times do you want to sit after you buy your coffee and all the seats are taken by folks who are camped out! That seems like lost sales?

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Robert DiPietro, GVP Product Strategy & Business Development, Affinion Group

Great idea and customer experience addition. The only drawback is with more lingering customers, Starbucks is really filling their square footage. Many stores are already perpetually filled with students, business people, etc. taking up table space. Don't overcrowd the footprint or some of the comfort they strive to create is in jeopardy of evaporating.

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Larry Negrich, Vice President, Marketing, nGage Labs

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