TECHNOLOGY

Starbucks to expand U.S. delivery service via Uber Eats; goes live online in China

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Starbucks Corp. is stepping up its delivery services at home and expanding its digital presence in China.

The coffee giant will expand its partnership with Uber Eats to nearly a quarter of its U.S. stores — or more than 2,000 locations — by next spring. Starbucks first launched the delivery program, called Starbuck Delivers, as a pilot in September, in Miami. The news about the delivery expansion was one of several announcements made in conjunction with the company’s annual investor day event in New York.

The model for Starbucks’ delivery initiative is in China, where the company offers delivery via Chinese online giant Alibaba’s Ele.me platform. The program was launched in September and has since grown to more than 2,000 Starbucks locations in 30 cities across China.

Further leveraging its partnership with Alibaba, Starbucks said at the meeting that it has launched its first virtual Starbucks store in China. The digital store merges the Starbucks app and customer-facing mobile apps within the Alibaba ecosystem, including Taobao, Tmall and Alipay, creating a unified experience.

The store is supported by an online management hub, developed by Alibaba, that integrates all Starbucks’ digital experience offerings, including Starbucks Delivers, the company’s “Say it with Starbucks” social gifting and the Starbucks Tmall flagship store.

The virtual store supports approximately 670 million Starbucks and Alibaba mobile active users. It will also offer visibility into its consumers’ online journeys, according to the coffee giant.

The platform will also support multiple services during one transaction. For example, customers can place an order using Starbucks Delivers, and a rider from Alibaba’s on-demand platform, ele.me, will be immediately alerted to deliver the order within 30 minutes. What was previously available across many digital apps is now can be completed within a single access to the integrated virtual Starbucks store, the company reported.

The platform will also host new social gifting experiences. For example, customers purchasing a digital beverage gift card can now also add a physical Starbucks gift, such as exclusive Starbucks merchandise from the Starbucks Tmall flagship store.

“This new milestone in the Starbucks digital strategy will significantly fuel our capabilities to provide an even more personalized and enticing one-touch digital experience for the Chinese consumer, while extending the accessibility of our digital innovations into the everyday lifestyle rituals of our customers, regardless of time or place,” said Molly Liu, VP, digital venture, Starbucks China.

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