Innovating like Starbucks

Despite local coffee shops, Starbucks remains my go-to for chai latte. It is convenient and has managed to constantly innovate and capture the hearts of its digital savvy consumers over last few years. If you ever thought that digital adoption is only for companies that have a component of internet-based consumption, Starbucks disproves it.  To study the evolution, I compiled company’s some of the key digital ventures from its Facebook page timeline and public assets.

Starbucks digital innovation timelineWith proven history of being at the forefront of leveraging latest across web, social & mobile this primarily brick-and-mortar based coffeehouse has evolved to become the  Most Socially Engaged Company, beating Audi, McDonald’s, Red Bull and American Express. 

  • It acquired Hear Music right around the time when Pandora was started in Jan 2000.
  • It perfected MyStarbucksIdea less than 2 years after the term was publicized in the Wired magazine’s Jun 2006 ‘The Rise of Crowdsourcing‘ article.
  • Its Facebook page reached 3M fans in June 2009, less than 2 years after Facebook pages was launched in Nov. 2007.
  • Its iPhone app was launched in 2009, approx. a year after Apple announced App Store in July 2008. The app had reached 26M mobile payments by 2011. 
  • It enabled its US stores with free Wi-Fi and Starbucks Digital Network in 2010
  • More recently, the company has forayed into partnership with Square to enable ‘Pay with Square’ option in selected stores.

The point is that, companies must display agility, adaptability and alignment of their operations to continually understand & serve the expectations of today’s digital consumer. Ofcourse, it requires risk taking and long-range vision. Old timers such as  Coca-Cola, Dell and Nestle have similarly displayed their resilience. Their state of the art Social Media Command Centers are frequently quoted industry examples.

To close, here is what Howard Schultz  thinks is NOT innovation,

“If Frappuccino is a hot category and you introduce a new flavor, and it moves the needle a lot, the organization comes to believe, ‘That was a great thing we did.’ And it imprints a feeling of, ‘That was innovation.’ But that’s not innovation. In fact, it’s laziness.”

For further reading, on Starbucks being one of the most innovative companies, read this Fast Company article, where I sourced the above quote from.