Starbucks Executive Offers Tips for Going Mobile

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Starbucks Executive Offers Tips for Going Mobile


SEATTLE -- An Android Starbucks app and the ability to order drinks using a smartphone are on the menu for the coffee chain, said a Starbucks executive this week at the Mobile Northwest conference, according to a PCWorld report.

The company has come far from what it claims was the first-ever iPhone app, which displayed the name of the song playing in a Starbucks store when the customer entered, said K.C. MacLaren, director of mobile and emerging platforms. Now, iPhone and BlackBerry users can manage their Starbucks cards and pay for drinks in stores. Android users will eventually join them, as a Starbucks app for the platform is "in process," but the multiple screen resolutions, sizes and versions of the operating system make the development a challenge, MacLaren said.

Starbucks is frequently asked when customers will be able to order drinks from their phones, and said the ability is coming, but it brings with it a debate: "We know how to do it, the question is: Does it create the behavior in the customer we really want?" he questioned. Such an ability could encourage people to order drinks when they might otherwise be put off by a long line, but people waiting in store lines might be annoyed to see others skip ahead of them to pick up pre-ordered drinks. Drink temperature and pickup time could also be issues. "We'll try something with it," he said. "Stay tuned."

When it comes to creating apps, MacLaren emphasized that creating content and abilities specifically helpful to mobile users is key. "There's nothing wrong with telling your story, but you can't just take your Web site and stick it on the phone. There's a different use case than on your laptop," he said. He also noted that while iPads are an important segment, they should be considered separately from smartphone users. "IPads are not mobile," he noted. "You can't scan it and pay."

MacLaren also recommended testing mobile apps in multiple ways. To test its own mobile payment feature, Starbucks released an app with many functions and enabled mobile payment at 16 specific stores, according to the report.

Future apps will help customers interact, MacLaren predicted. "There's us to you, and you to us and the third generation will be how do consumers interact with each other around our brand," he said. "That's where the power will be."