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The Starbucks app is so popular it may be bruising their business

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(BUSINESS NEWS) Many look up to the Starbucks brand as a trend setter, but they’re rethinking their mobile innovations as sales suffer – what now?

The magic of virtual ordering

I never understood coffee memes until I started working retail and it became my lifeblood. When it’s too busy where I’m working for any of the employees to duck in the back to make coffee or wait in a line, we love the Starbucks app.

It’s great for Saturday mornings when there’s already a line outside of the door. Instead of completely panicking, my fellow employees and I turn to the magic of virtual ordering.

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I can’t be gone long enough to wait in line, but I can dart to the nearest Starbucks and back in record time.  It’s like I’m going for the gold in speed walking. I walk in, grab extra sugar packets and straws, shout thanks to the lovely baristas, and power back to home base. It feels like having a Disney FastPass — I get to zoom past the line and get my treats while everyone else is stuck in line.

Balancing customers’ needs

With the Starbucks app, you can customize things that you’d normally feel too needy to ask about in person. I can get two pumps of vanilla instead of the regular four without feeling like I’m annoying the baristas. However, the convenience of the app means people are zipping in and out of the store quickly, which isn’t good for business.

There have also been problems balancing the needs of in-store customers with those who ordered through the app.

Last quarter, baristas had trouble keeping up with the massive influx of orders from the mobile app. This caused backups, leading some walk-in customers to leave due to the extended wait time.

Additionally, the less time customers spend in the store, the less likely they are to make impulse purchases.

As one of the first adopters of a mobile payment system, Starbucks is pioneering the industry. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like it’s entirely working out for them quite yet.

Sales took a dip, now what?

Last quarter sales were abysmal, partly due to a change in the company’s loyalty program.

With the previous system, customers received rewards for each transaction, leading some people to break up huge orders into individual transactions. Starbucks switched from a transaction-based system to a dollar-based one to root out those who were backing up lines with multiple transactions. Apparently people were pissed about their new star earning potential, contributing to a slump in national sales.

However, changes to the app may help increase customer satisfaction and keep people buying things in-store and via app. Too much demand is actually a pretty good problem to have. In fact, according to Reuters, AB Bernstein analyst Sara Senatore describes it as a “high-quality problem.”

Starbucks figured out how to get people into its stores and hand over their money. Now they just need to sort out the volume problem with the app.Click To Tweet

So far, several stores have added one or two baristas specifically focused on mobile orders and payments during peak hours. Starbucks’ spokesperson Linda Mills also noted that executives are considering testing out notifications alerting customers when their orders are ready. This would alleviate some of the back up at the in-store counters that are often filled with people who over or underestimated what “ready in 3-7 minutes” really means.

While I’m not always a fan of Starbucks’ business practices, I’m a huge fan of hybrid ordering. So I hope Starbucks works out their app issues so other companies can successfully follow their lead.

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