Starbucks uses Microsoft Azure platform to develop digitally-integrated services including cloud-connected espresso machines, predictive app-based ordering and blockchain traceability
A customer interacts with Starbucks' mobile ordering app in Brazil
Starbucks is seeking to generate operational efficiencies and enhance customer personalisation using Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing platform. In a press statement, Microsoft said the Seattle-based coffee chain will to use Azure to collect data from Internet-of-things (IoT) enabled espresso machines on each coffee served, including bean source, temperature and water quality. This will enable quick diagnosis of equipment problems and allow new beverage recipes to be instantly downloaded to machines rather than manually inputted.
“Think about the complexity — we have to get to 30,000 stores in nearly 80 markets to update those recipes,” said Jeff Wile, senior vice president of retail and core technology services for Starbucks Technology. “That recipe push is a huge part of the cost savings and the justification for doing this.”
The US coffee chain is also seeking to offer greater menu personalisation through its mobile app. Reinforcement learning technology will enable some 16 million active Starbucks Rewards members to receive customised menu suggestions based on previous orders, store inventory, popular selections, weather, time of day, community preferences and previous orders.
Increased personalisation could be a powerful marketing strategy among consumers seeking tailored, streamlined in-store environments, although it remains to be seen how Starbucks will tailor the service across 80 diverse territories.
Allegra data shows nearly 60% of UK consumers surveyed often use coffee shop apps on their portable electronic device while in the US the figure stands at 35%. Over forty percent of UK consumers surveyed indicate they visit coffee shops more frequently because they have that brand’s app on their device, while 29% of US consumers indicate this is the case. In China, Starbucks has partnered with e-commerce giant, Alibaba, to pilot a food and beverage delivery service, a feature that is highly popular among consumers in the East Asian nation.
Starbucks is also developing an app feature to display information about the supply chain of their branded retail coffee. Microsoft’s Azure Blockchain Service will enable the coffee chain trace the movement of its coffee from farm to cup on a ledger, which will include information farmer location, roasting and tasting notes. “I firmly believe that by empowering farmers with knowledge and data through technology, we can support them in ultimately improving their livelihoods,” said Michelle Burns, SVP of Global Coffee & Tea at Starbucks.