The VPM Blog

Starbucks Migrates to Mobile

Posted by admin on Aug 14, 2012 12:03:12 PM

Starbucks baristas love shorthand. IC 3 V SKCL = iced triple venti skinny caramel latte. 2 E = doppio espresso. 1 G CM = single grande caramel macchiato.

When I worked at the ‘Bux, we baristas used the following to further shorthand our employer: *$

The abbreviation is perfect for our text and Twitter – savvy generation. It’s fitting, right?! Starbucks does two things exceptionally well: 1) although I can’t speak for every barista that ever lived, the company certainly puts a star over customer service and 2) the company makes money.

With last week’s partnership and $25 million dollar investment into Square, Starbucks is doing what so many massive, global companies only wish they could do: please customers, generate revenue and adapt to this digital landscape without (seemingly) breaking stride.

Here are some good resources if you need to get caught up:

In recent years, Starbucks has been the number one company in the world for mobile payments and dollar-for-dollar digital transactions. The company’s social media efforts and mobile app (released in January 2011) drive a tremendous amount of general awareness, feedback / product development insight and direct-to-consumer communication.

Doubling-down and investing in a company like Square ensures that Starbucks remains in this position, while allowing the company to take control of their own sales. With the move, Starbucks is effectively cutting out middlemen… an action that almost always results in either a savings or improved experience for the end user.

Starbucks and Square have a shared desire to shake-up stale customer service models and push towards the future.

Here’s a little insider knowledge from my barista days: Starbuck's five “Green Apron” principles that we are to live and die by when it comes to customer experience…

  • Welcoming
  • Genuine
  • Knowledgeable
  • Considerate
  • Involved

Every barista gets tested on these principles; they are drilled into our heads. Clearly, Starbucks is selling more than coffee – although that certainly has to be done well (a point I will leave you to debate elsewhere). The brand's success, with all of its merchandising and globalization, hinges on familiarity, convenience and community.

Starbucks has to do more than just make a good cup of coffee in 2015, 2025 and beyond – it has to stay front-of-mind and close to your heart, no matter where you are.

So what’s the takeaway: if you aren’t paying attention to mobile, you should start. Mobile commerce, in particular, shows a great deal of promise for small businesses and local vendors – often eliminating the need for expensive merchant accounts and unwanted pressure from sales quotas. Implementation takes money, but there is often a strong upside to long-term financials. And, of course, the real prize is access to the next generation of consumers and a much more intimate interaction with your customer.


Meredith Singer is COO & Co-Creative of Verge Pipe Media. Verge Pipe Media assists public institutions, enterprises and the non-profit sector with Imaginative Inbound Marketing strategies + campaigns. We also have a development team chock full of Marvelous Mobile Migrators, poised to help transition our clients into a mobile + social world.

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