An Observer Visits Starbucks

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  • 11 April 2017
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I go to Starbucks at least twice a week, at home and when I travel. I go to Starbucks for a consistent, enjoyable experience. There are similar people, having similar conversations. I typically run in, grab a cup and a seat, and get some work done. Other times I dash in and out. This week, however, my visit to Starbucks was different.

A friend invited me to meet for a cup of coffee. I arrived early and decided not to place my order right away. Instead, I sat and looked around the store. I calmed my mind to rid myself of the inflammation created by the universe of information surrounding me all the time!  

After almost 10 minutes, my mind settled. My awareness opened to everything happening around me. Baristas taking and filling orders was obvious. But deeper insights began to emerge. I became more captivated by Starbucks’ business model. I wondered about Starbucks’ success at bringing people to their stores. As I settled into the moment, I noticed things I had not recognized before.

A Trusted Relationship

When they first started their business, Starbucks set out to become a place for conversation and a sense of community. A third place between work and home. They wanted to not only celebrate coffee and its rich tradition, but also bring a sense of connection. Their neighborhood gathering places are now a part of the daily routine for millions of people.

I considered Starbucks’ enormous goal to create a “third place.” Home is number one, work is two, and Starbucks is the third place. How bold! Home is such a sacred space. Work is your sacred space. Starbucks aimed to make their stores a sacred space.

I looked around to understand how they did it. Many people in Starbucks are frequent customers. I realized, when you go often, visiting becomes a habit, a personal and special part of your day.

Starbucks is an authentic and human brand. It’s a neighborhood spot that matches people’s values and goals. Starbucks is transparent. They share their vision and goal to be a reliable, trusted place. They build trust one customer, one community, at a time.

All around me were safe and comfortable patrons in a carefully designed retail storefront. Next to me, sat two people in a discussion that should have stayed inside their firm’s fire wall. Their comments were pervasive. Yet, I only heard them because I immersed myself in the surrounding environment.

To my right, a father and a son shared an intimate conversation. In a normal tone, they discussed how the young man did something wrong. His father tried to coach him, but he was stubborn. Anyone could notice their small conflict. But, almost but nobody would recognize it without taking the time to absorb the setting and the people.

I realized I, too, am always casual when I go to Starbucks. I don’t worry about the conversation I’m having. I’m not looking over my shoulder. Starbucks has done a great job on the in-store channel!

Growing from Trust

Now Starbucks is blurring the line between the retail brick-and-mortar experience and the web and mobile channels. They are building incremental trust in a new space, the digital world.

Who better than Starbucks to start to explore different technologies to drive growth? They are a trusted brand. They take trust as a foundation, and build incremental experiences on top.

They started with mobile payment. Their promise of security means I can interact in a physical or digital in a space protected space. They transferred trust into their digital experiences.

What about other technologies? Some places are skipping mobile payment, using facial recognition instead, for instance. So, who better than Starbucks to try that? What about virtual reality, where we come and virtually share an experience at Starbucks? Building on trust, all the possibilities make sense.

Trust is the Foundation

So, what does this mean? Starbucks is a trusted place. They show me that when you nail the omnichannel experience and move to ubiquity you get to trust. But going from omnichannel to ubiquity has many layers. You need to create a consistent and safe place. Only then can you have trust. So, it is so critical to get the whole omnichannel-to-ubiquity effort right.

Starbucks did a great job integrating into our lifestyle and in our lives. If I have an important one-on-one meeting? Starbucks. If I want to talk with my son? Starbucks. Where would I go for having a personal connection? Yes, Starbucks.

I learned about the role of trust in Starbucks’ business model by stepping back and watching. Sometimes in life, we need to just go observe. Sit back and see what the world is doing around you. See what has become lifestyle or ubiquitous in your space. Be inspired! Inspiration is everywhere around us.

-Vikas

About Off the Cuff

Off the Cuff is an occasional series of ideas from Revel CEO Vikas Kamran, inspired by conversations about organizations and ideas defining the digital future, and intended get the creative juices flowing.


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