Content Marketing

Starbucks Launching Social Network

My Starbucks Idea isn’t up yet is up! Putting up a social network to solicit feedback from customers directly to the stores that they patronize may not be a bad idea. If there’s a retail brand that might actually succeed with social networking, Starbucks may very well be it. It’s a huge brand, it’s everywhere, people are addicted (literally) to their product, and customers love it.

Starbucks is really up against a wall. They’ve lost their luster with followers, operating costs are up, great baristas are getting harder to find, consumer spending is lagging, and competitors like McDonalds are starting to growl about losing breakfast patrons. McDonalds even topped Starbucks on a head to head taste test.

Why I’m not at Starbucks as often

Personally, I visit Starbucks half as much as I used to. I enjoy the premium roast that I get from my local coffee house and appreciate the fact that my money is going back into the local economy. Starbucks lost its luster when I started to see them a few blocks apart from one another and the wireless was costing me $30 per month. I’m only at Starbucks when my Greenwood Coffee House, The Bean Cup is out of reach.

With Howard Schultz back in the driver’s seat, perhaps Starbucks could stand a chance. We’ll see. My guess is that the Social Network will have a trickle of traffic, I would have opted for a blog and solicited feedback through content I could target a little better.

What will my idea be for Starbucks? Comfortable seats.

10 Comments

  1. 1

    Decent coffee that you don’t have to doctor up with half a ping of dairy products to choke it down would be my Starbucks idea.

  2. 2
  3. 3

    I stopped drinking Starbucks when the baristas stopped looking up at you when taking your order and giving back change. Nothing beats world class customer service, and Starbucks is seriously lacking in it. Wonder if that half-day training helped??

  4. 4

    Starbucks has become the McDonalds of coffee, in my opinion. As mentioned by Eric above, the customer service has really gone downhill. The staff generally seems disinterested the way they do at many fast-food places, and the product quality is inconsistent (though I would say that at McDonalds it’s very consistent, not that I eat there often anymore). They’ve taken something that used to have a certain cache to it and made it ordinary.

    In their defense, I’m not sure how you’re supposed to maintain profit margins on a grand scale in a market as competitive as coffee is these days. I suppose that with the blanketing of the world with Starbucks stores there was going to be a loss in the overall quality of the experience you get when you visit, but it’s unfortunate. I’d like to see them improve things, but I think they have a heck of a challenge on their hands.

  5. 5

    I don’t know if Starbucks needs a social network any more than Bode Miller needs to release the SkiSpace skiing social network. It’s the sheer number of users that create the network effect and make a social network valuable, so niche sites are automatically shooting themselves in the foot. At least, IMHO 😉

    • 6

      I think I agree with you, Dave. For the ‘short term’, it appears they are just soliciting feedback and it’s really not a ‘social network’ in the typical sense. It will be interesting to see if they implement the top 2 – free wireless & comfortable seats.

      Both of those keep patrons around longer… something that a mass production coffee house might not appreciate. You don’t sell more when there’s no place to sit!

  6. 7

    We see this all the time don’t we? Great idea, breakthrough product and company, scales to take advantage of a hot brand … and then starts expanding like crazy with add-on products and locations and begins to lose its core.

    I’m still stopping by my Starbucks everyday but its lost a lot of its appeal along the way. I like that Shultz is back at the helm … reminds of Jobs coming back into Apple … it should bring them back closer to offering a cool experience. Social media connections are at least opening the doors in a new way.

    My idea for them would be to listen carefully for the reasons why existing customers are no longer coming, others are going to McDonalds and why folks find it too much of a hassle to even consider. One thing I’d put right out there is they’ve got to stop nickle and diming the experience. I agree about the wireless hookup. Anyway, the answers are out there. Far too powerful a brand for them not to find a way to fix it.

    Phil

    • 8

      I agree Phil. I wonder how much is lost simply because Starbucks doesn’t have that ‘new car smell’?

      Being trendy is a very brittle foundation to build your business on and it tends to cloud a company’s vision of itself and its importance. I think much of Starbuck’s success was the trendiness of a cool drink with lots of words at an expensive price.

      • 9

        Yes, the excitement of the new car has rubbed off. I remember when folks used to laugh at me for stopping and using that new foreign language I’d learned.

        You’ve probably hit the core issue for them … fad or a great launch at owning the ‘morning out experience’ that lost its way. Time will tell.

  7. 10

    While I also applaud Starbucks for creating a process that brings customers into their innovation process, there is also a downside you didn’t mention. Competitors, ranging from Peet’s to the hole-in-the-wall corner coffee shop, can also access Starbucks’ innovation discussion. This is a treasure trove of what customers are looking for, what has been tried, and what works or doesn’t work. To top it off, Starbucks is doing a great job of interacting, thereby providing more free market research.

    I’m still in favor of what Starbucks has done, but if I was a small-timer I’d also be perousing the suggestion boards every day!

    More on this specific topic from a business excellence perspective at:

    http://www.evolvingexcellence.com/blog/2008/04/morro-bay-coffe.html

    Best,
    Kevin

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