Starbucks Introduces Mobile Voice Ordering (SBUX)

Just few days after admitting its mobile success has created a new challenge, Starbucks Corp (SBUX) is taking its mobile game to the next level by adding a virtual assistant to the Starbucks app. (See also: Starbucks: A Victim of its Own Innovation?)

The virtual assistant feature, called My Starbucks Barista, allows customers to place orders and pay by either speaking or chatting with a Starbucks ‘bot.”

The feature also allows customers to modify their orders, just as they would if they were speaking with a real barista. The virtual assistant will also confirm the location where they want to place the orders as well as the amount of time it would take for the orders to be ready.

The coffee chain is beta-testing the voice-ordering feature with 1,000 customers, for now. The beta version is only available on iOS. The company plans a phased rollout of the feature through the summer of 2017. It also says an Android version will be launched later this year.

In addition, SBUX announced the launch of the Starbucks Reorder Skill for the Amazon Alexa platform. This feature takes the Mobile Order & Pay capability to another level by letting customers reorder their regular Starbucks items from an assigned location by simply saying, “Alexa, order my Starbucks.” This feature will be available on Echo speakers and Alexa-powered devices.

A Potential Comps Driver?

In its most recent quarterly report, SBUX reported global comparable store sales of 3%, the third consecutive quarter it has reported comps below the 5% mark. Before those three quarters, the coffee chain had reported 25 consecutive quarters of 5% plus comps. The indication here is that growth is slowing down at SBUX established locations.

One of the ways the coffee chain could drive growth again is to keep innovating digitally. These new features represent a step in that direction, as it will certainly attract more customers to its mobile platform.

The one thing Starbucks needs to do is find a way to make sure the increased orders these initiatives bring are completed while keeping walk-in customers happy.