Many business leaders have a love/hate relationship with technology. On the one hand, technological advances offer great business opportunities. On the other hand, the infrastructure costs associated with technology shifts and the rapid pace of technological change pose strategic and operational challenges. Although some business leaders fall in love with technology for technology’s sake leaders at Starbucks, the topic of my latest book Leading the Starbucks Way, love their customers and appreciate the relationship those customers have with technology. As such Starbucks has designed very functional digital, social, and mobile tools. In the words of Howard Schultz, you have to “run with people in the way they run their lives.”
To that end, Starbucks is exploring a way to accept pre or “express” orders through their mobile app, giving customers the ability to both order and pay before they even enter the store. If you live in San Francisco you might have already taken advantage of this technology at La Boulange, the chain of bakeries that Starbucks acquired in 2012. At the core of Starbucks’ successful digital strategy are several interrelated areas that all business leaders should consider when they are attempting to connect with customers from the broad mass market to the one-to-one. The five key components of digital strategy are:
(2) company-owned web and mobile channels
(3) loyalty/customer relationship management (CRM)/targeted database
(4) social media
(5) paid digital marketing
By paying close attention to the reality that consumers value their time above most anything else, Starbucks’ focus on using technology to ease wait times tackles elements of the first three components. Starbucks’ current mobile app houses a customers’ Starbucks card(s), thus their membership in the My Starbucks Rewards loyalty program, and features a mechanism that allows the customer to pay for their purchase. Taking that technology one step further to enable the customer to both place and pay for an order integrates commerce into their mobile channel in a whole new way. If successfully launched, this is an example of a digital connection that boasts both trust and relevance. Customers have shown a high degree of trust in both using the Starbucks app and in the product that will warm their hands as they leave the store. Anyone who has waited in a line that is snaked out the door can appreciate the relevance of getting to that cup-in-hand moment faster.
As your business seeks to harness technology to enhance your customers’ experience remember the ever-important element of connection. Suppose you employ technology to improve the delivery of your product or service. Consider whether doing so eliminated a point of interaction between your customers and employees. If execution of your improvement-via-technology is not seamless, the net result can be an experience shrouded in disappointment. Your customers seek engagement even as technology makes it possible to streamline and automate.
How would you assess your business’ success in forging a digital connection of trust and relevance?