Starbucks is enabling limited availability of voice-driven ordering and payment through the My Starbucks Barista artificial intelligence feature on its iOS mobile application, and also has launched a Starbucks Reorder Skill via Amazon’s Alexa marketplace that allows users to order Starbucks items by voice through their Alexa digital assistant-enabled devices.
The mobile effort is being run as a beta test involving about 1,000 Apple device-equipped customers nationwide, though Starbucks also is planning a Google Android version of the capability. The new features are extensions of the coffeehouse chain's Mobile Order & Pay feature.
The Alexa skill, which GeekWire says launched within recent weeks, allows customers to designate a “usual” Starbucks order in advance, which they can then order by voice from one of the most recent 10 stores they’ve visited.
Starbucks' support for voice-based ordering shouldn't come as too much of a surprise, given the retailer's embrace of conversational commerce and My Starbucks Barista announcement last month. Still, it has moved pretty quickly from messaging-based interactions with customers to AI-enabled voice interactions.
What's even more interesting is how Starbucks is pursuing this capability on two fronts. Putting it into a mobile app could make sense for some of the more progressive users of its app, but it's not clear that everyone would use the voice ordering capability in the app, which is probably why Starbucks is pursuing a limited beta program for now. It wants to find out if customers are really ready for this, and how often they might use it.
The Alexa ordering skill is more of a no-brainer. If there's anything the many, many users of the Amazon Echo and other Alexa-enabled devices like to do, it's talk to Alexa — for a number of reasons, but especially for ordering things online. Asking Alexa to place their usual order from the local Starbucks should come very naturally to them. It's not clear whether or not Starbucks and Amazon are working together in a more formal partnership in support this capability, but creating this skill probably didn't require much to happen at a corporate level.
Starbucks was an early supporter of mobile payments, but seems to be signaling with recent announcements that it is upping its mobile game. It's also pretty clearly betting on conversational commerce and methods for creating more personalized interactions with customers. It sounds like Starbucks has a lot in common with Amazon: Maybe those two should start talking about some sort of partnership after all.