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Starbucks / Espresso Express

by Contagious I/O

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Coffee chain’s order and collect service helps ease queues

Caffeine-hungry commuters, your prayers have been answered.Starbucks Coffee wants to banish waiting in line for good. A new update to the retailer’s app in the US allows people to order drinks and snacks from a particular store and receive a time estimate as to when it will be ready to pick up.

To take advantage of the Mobile Order & Pay initiative, customers open the existing Starbucks app and choose their desired items from the menu. The same customisation options are available for the drinks as there would be in store, which means that every item can be personalised in an astonishing 80,000 different ways. For example, customers can request precise quantities of coffee flavouring, the type of dusting they would like on top, and even to have their coffee made upside down. The app automatically removes items from the menu that have run out at a particular branch.

After the order has been placed, the Starbucks algorithm calculates when it will be ready to pick up from the nearest store. It uses the store’s average order speed, the average time it takes to make that particular drink and how busy the store is likely to be at that time of day to calculate a pick-up time. If the user feels the proposed wait is too long, they can swipe to compare estimated times for their order across different nearby branches. The app then offers directions to the store and saves the request among a montage of recent orders on the home screen.

Meanwhile, details of the order are printed out onto a named sticker in store, which the barista attaches to an empty coffee cup. After making the beverage, they call out the user’s name and place it on to the collection point ready to be picked up.


Contagious Insight / 

Leading mobile payments / Starbucks has long been a trailblazer of mobile payments. It first tested its barcode app in 2009, which allowed users to pay simply by scanning a barcode at point of sale. Since the app rolled-out fully in 2011 it has accrued 12 million active users, equating to 16% of Starbucks’ 47 million weekly transactions, according to a report by Business to Community earlier this year. While the technology required for mobile order and pay has been around for some time - KFC trialed similar tech in 2011, for example - Starbucks is once again leading the way by rolling it out on a mass scale.

Customer convenience / Starbucks has thought about the customer journey beyond what happens in store and has used mobile to provide a genuinely useful service designed around its customers' needs. It knows that for time-starved commuters every minute counts, especially in the morning rush. The ability to place a coffee order while idly sitting on the train or bus to work puts dead time to good use, making morning routines more efficient. Customers will likely feel grateful to the brand for this little life-hack.

The app has the added benefit of introducing customers to Starbucks' entire range of customisation options, which may not be so obvious in store. They can also see the entire network of coffee shops more easily, perhaps discovering new and more convenient locations.

Benefiting the bottom line / The mobile order and pay update will not only benefit customers, but is good for the brand too. The app was made in an attempt to reduce ‘line anxiety’ which negatively affects sales, according to an interview with Starbucks director of digital strategy Dan Beranek in Fast Company. And the few minutes gained could be a reason to choose Starbucks over a competitor coffee chain. Beranek also explained that people generally spend more money per order when using the app than in store. The company also hopes that one day they will be able to use the app to direct customers to quieter stores to help maintain steady traffic across branches.


This story originally appeared on Contagious I/O. Contagious I/O is our bespoke trends, inspiration, insight and analysis service, providing daily innovative marketing intelligence across a comprehensive range of sectors to brands and agencies across the world. For more information about Contagious I/O contact