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Starbucks app’s latest update touts features to drive commerce, including Alexa integration

A recent update to Starbucks’ uber-popular application was one of the most significant ones in recent memory, including the long-awaited rollout of My Starbucks barista and a serious user experience revamp.

The update’s bevy of new features, including a leaner order navigation process, a “previous orders” tab, along with a “recommendations” offering mirror advances familiar to those who create and consume apps in the retail sector such as Amazon. Starbucks’ attention to cues from retail and other large-scale ecommerce may indicate that even the most straightforward bricks-and-mortar presences may need to adopt frictionless app experiences to compete.

“IoT is designed to make consumer’s lives easier, that means staying ahead of the curve in terms of innovation and functionality,” said Thomas Walle, CEO of Unacast. “So, it is no surprise they have made the move to voice ordering capabilities by integrating Amazon’s Alexa.

“Something to keep in mind though is how introducing a digital function to a traditionally offline model will affect their model in the long term. Underscoring offline behavior will likely prove important to maintaining a loyal following while attracting a new audience intrigued by all things Alexa.”

App update
The update, available now on iOS and Android, offers a new way to pay through the app’s popular in-store payment platform. Users can now see their available Starbucks Card balance, making access to the in-store payment barcode easier from the app’s home screen.

Users can also start orders while signed out, and can also now check in on item inventory at different stores before placing an order while signed in.

But the shiniest new features are all clear plays at driving commerce, including the aforementioned “previous orders” tab. Without having to look into a specific Starbucks location, users can look at recent orders and quickly order them again, after which, the feature will provide store location, directions and prep time, all within the app.

The “favorites” tab is now repositioned front and center thanks to an improved navigation redesign, which section the app experience into tab-based verticals. Another significant add-on is the “featured menu,” which highlights exclusive new products at nearby stores.

Also included is the “recommendations” feature, which suggests items to add to a users’ cart as items are being added to it.

My Starbucks Barista
Perhaps the most anticipated new feature arriving with the new update was the My Starbucks barista platform, an AI extension of Starbucks Mobile Order and Pay that is channeled through Amazon’s voice-activated Alexa platform. The feature, which was announced during Starbucks Investment Day last December, is now available on select iOS devices, with a prolonged rollout (and an Android client) expected to continue into Summer 2017 (see story).

My Starbucks barista is powered by an AI interface to allows customers to order and pay for their food and beverage items simply by using their voice.

Starbucks is also introducing a Reorder Skill on the Alexa platform which also leverages Mobile Order & Pay technology, allowing customers to order their usual Starbucks food and beverage items as they move throughout their day. Customers simply need to say “Alexa, order my Starbucks,” giving them the ability to order their usual items from their store wherever they have an Alexa device.

All things considered Starbucks has done an incredible job of staying ahead of tech trends, especially on mobile. The coffeehouse received our Mobile Retailer of the Year award in 2015, and its encouraging numbers last year prove that it has no intentions of stopping (see story).

“‘I want the last thing I ordered’ is simple to execute,” Mr. Walle said. “With the acceleration of digital and online consumer retail purchase activity, Starbucks is checking the boxes in terms of new product innovations to provide relevant experiences.

“From a marketer’s perspective, Starbucks has a major opportunity to now leverage proximity data so it can better understand people’s movements in the real world by providing verified and actionable data on a new level of accuracy and relevancy.”