Starbucks has long been a leader in digital-based customer experiences and loyalty – with a mobile agenda to continue that dominance for years to come. The coffee chain has been testing functionality related to pre-ordering and delivery for months, which is expected to bolster an already-impressive suite of mobile features that includes: payments, digital receipting and in-app rewards. And despite the strenuous app development efforts behind these features, Starbucks isn’t likely to begin offering the functionality to its customers until early 2015.
Compare Starbucks’ development timeline to that of mPOS provider Square, which seems to push out new products at the snap of finger. Quick service restaurants (QSRs) too appear capable of testing and deploying features like pre-ordering at a much faster rate than Starbucks. These more frequent mobile app releases are a treat for consumers but carry the risk of product and process failure after going live.
Defects and bugs within a mobile app are inevitable and, to an extent, ‘acceptable’ from a consumer standpoint (smartphone owners have become accustomed to timely app updates that include bug fixes). Less excusable is a process failure on the part of merchant when consumers choose to use their mobile device in stores but staff members fail to complete a transaction as seamlessly as they would through other channels – an experience that can deter customers from the mobile channel indefinitely.
As referenced in a March 2014 post, the mobile channel is surprisingly dependent on merchant staff and processes. For example, cashiers are often required to provide instructions to customers on when to scan a QR code for making a payment. In the scenario of mobile ordering, baristas must know exactly when a customer expects to pick up his or her order, in order to ensure that the beverage is fresh upon arrival.
Starbucks, unlike many other QSRs, understands the value in having well-defined mobile-oriented processes, starting with adequate training for employees and continuing with ongoing compliance with established SLAs. Where should customers expect to pick up their order upon arrival? What steps do customers take to complete a payment at the register? How long should they expect a delivery to take?
Minimizing poor mobile experiences starts with answering these very questions and ensuring that expectations are set with the customer. Starbucks is well-aware how quickly consumer trust in a mobile solution can be shattered with one bad experience – especially if that experience is one of the customer’s first with the mobile app.
On the other side of the coin, successful mobile experiences can build consumer trust in solutions and lead to a shift to the merchant’s mobile channel, which tends to be cheaper and more engaging than physical channels. Starbucks’ success is seen in their mobile app’s 16% share of total payments made in stores. Other merchants with emerging mobile platforms should follow Starbucks’ lead in establishing concrete in-store processes in order to turn existing customers into trusting and loyal users of their mobile apps.