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NRF 2018: Starbucks digital experience must be extension of the barista

The Seattle-based coffee company operates in local markets around the world. But according to Sweeney, consistency and familiarity is what makes it so popular in communities across the globe.

Starbucks knows that humans inherently have a need for connection and to be recognised and remembered. People know what to expect from a Starbucks coffee and delivering that exact product regardless of where a customer is in the world is important,” said Sweeney.

“The Starbucks digital experience is an extension of the barista and it’s important to replicate human aspects in the app.”

Making a connection with the customer – albeit digitally – is important, explained Sweeney, “but so is removing friction from the experience”. The digital experience must be seamless.

Digital marketing on a global scale must be consistent. However, Sweeney highlighted that local markets also need to be given the freedom to innovate for themselves. Some products will only be popular in some part of the world for example, and availability and marketing will reflect this. “You’d never find a spiced pumpkin latte in Japan for example, and you’d never find a cherry blossom latte in the US.”

Starbucks relies on its partners to aid digital messaging and ensure that it articulates the right messages using the right vocabulary.

Carlo Privitera, partner technology and digitalization at Investindustrial, also spoke on the session and explained that the barriers between global and local teams are most challenging in the digital and online space. “That’s because brands can reach customers they weren’t capable of reaching before. This drives a compelling need to be unified and consistent in your message online and all over the world. The consumer has to recognise you. Your presentation of brands needs to be consistent from country to country.

“The big challenge is that the global and local teams often hate each other – their strategies are not always aligned and the communication is not always good. The manager needs to put both teams in the same room as much as they can,” he concluded. 

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