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Starbucks ramps up digital plans — especially voice-activated ones


While Starbucks’ is ramping up its commitment to digital initiatives, one of its newest programs gives a new meaning to “ordering on the go.”

Expanding the integration of Amazon Alexa in its Mobile Order & Pay platform, the coffee giant is now adding Ford vehicles to the mix. Later this year, Starbucks customers with a Ford car equipped with Sync 3 vehicle communications and entertainment system will be able to order Starbucks beverages by saying, “Alexa, ask Starbucks to start my order,” the chain’s chief technology officer Gerri Martin-Flickinger and China digital VP Molly Liu said at the company’s annual shareholders meeting on March 22.

This is the newest example of Starbucks’ commitment to voice-enabled ordering. For example, in January, the chain introduced My Starbucks barista functionality, powered by artificial intelligence, a service that allows Starbucks Mobile App users to place their orders via voice command or messaging interface. Since its launch, the service is now available to more than 100,000 customers across the U.S.

The chain is currently rolling out out My Starbucks barista to iOS customers, and Android users will be added in subsequent releases, the chain said.

Starbucks is also pursuing services designed to drive true one-to-one personalization. The company is currently testing personalized offers that it delivers to customers directly on their app’s opening screen. These messages include suggested selling and recommendations.

Mobile Order and Pay, personalized marketing offers and recommendations have contributed to a 20% increase in total Starbucks Rewards member spend versus last year. This increase is also driven by member growth and higher spend per member, reflecting a more engaged member base, according to Starbucks.

Overall, there are more than 13 million Starbucks Rewards members, approximately nine million mobile paying customers, with one out of three now using Mobile Order & Pay. More than $6 billion was loaded onto prepaid Starbucks Cards in North America during 2016 alone.

Another service that is driving engagement is Starbucks’ social gifting. With the introduction of the Outlook add-in, customers can gift a favorite beverage to friends, colleagues and loved ones through Microsoft Outlook. Starbucks also unveiled the availability of gifting through Apple’s Messages app with Apple Pay beginning in April, expanding the platform and offering customers new ways to share the Starbucks Experience.

The company’s social gifting efforts in China is also gaining momentum. The new social gifting feature, Say it with Starbucks, co-created by Starbucks and Weixin, a sister product of WeChat targeting Chinese domestic users, enables users to gift a Starbucks beverage or digital gift card in real-time.

Since its launch last month, Starbucks has seen more than one million transactions on its social gifting platform, and Weixin Pay has now reached 27% of tender in Starbucks stores in China, according to Liu.
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