Starbucks, the global chain of coffee stores which recently announced its entry into the sub-Saharan African market, has unveiled a range of new marketing strategies in Britain, where it has suffered a consumer backlash over alleged tax avoidance.
Its latest technology plans, reportedly scheduled to cost around US$46,7-million to implement throughout the UK, include smartphone-charging ‘power mats’ in all its stores, super-fast in-store Wi-Fi, and a coffee ‘click-and-collect’ service.
“Today what we’re focused on is the customer and evolving the coffee shop experience”, Kris Engskov, Starbucks President of Europe, Middle East and Africa, said in a media statement earlier this week. According to the London-based ‘Daily Telegraph’ newspaper, “Starbucks’ mobile ordering app will offer consumers a click-and-collect service that allows them to order and pay for their skinny, no foam cappuccinos on the way to their nearest Starbucks café.”
The business is also investing in having the fastest Wi-Fi to improve the experience of its average customer, who spends 40 minutes online per visit while in the stores. Of course, surfing the Internet to such an extent also means iPhones that are constantly out of battery power, so the strategy includes installing so-called ‘charging mats’ into Starbucks tables so that the phones can be recharged as often as necessary. These wireless points were successfully trialled in January and are now being widely introduced. Interestingly, the charging mats are currently only available to Apple iPhone users and not to smartphone users in general.
The last step of the technology drive is a new agreement with music streaming service Spotify, which will run a jukebox function in the coffee brand’s stores.
Engskov said the new technology strategy recognised that “the role of the coffee shop is fundamentally changing across the world”.
In an article published last year, the magazine ‘Computerworld’ suggested that Starbucks should be regarded as a technology company rather than a coffee brand. “People think Starbucks is a coffee company. But every restaurant sells coffee. What makes Starbucks unique is technology,” observed writer Mike Elgan.
“Amazon started out as an online bookstore then branched into selling everything. Today, Amazon differentiates itself against other retailers with algorithms, cloud services, robots and drones – not to mention tablets, TV boxes and, soon, a 3D smartphone. Amazon doesn't belong in the ‘retail store’ category. It's a technology company,” said Elgan.
“While the Internet of Things is a somewhat distant promise for consumers, Starbucks is charging forward with it aggressively. Many Starbucks stores have super high-tech Clover coffee machines, which connect to the cloud to communicate the performance of the machines and to track customer preferences.
“Starbucks is also working on smart refrigerators that track the expiration dates of milk and other items inside, smart thermometers, smart door locks and other devices in stores where data on their current states can be uploaded. All of his data is accessible and crunchable from headquarters.”
In South Africa, the first Starbucks store is expected to open in Johannesburg in mid-2016.
A skirmish for market share between rival pizza brands in South Africa is turning into a high-profile war as the well-established leading incumbent gears up to defend its territory from two American newcomers.
Debonairs Pizza, owned by Africa-wide food giant Famous Brands and with around 500 outlets in South Africa alone, has promised to take the fight to Pizza Hut and Domino’s Pizza, both of which recently announced their entry the market.