Social networking is not about farming followers, it’s a way of cultivating relationships. Interesting statement from Hubspot. Have you taken notice of Starbuck’s creativity and innovation? When choosing to learn from others creative strategies, it is always helpful to choose one of the top dogs, isn’t it?
They have been successfully executing their social media marketing plan since the first days of social media and social commerce. For over 5 years, and their strategies have played a significant role in their growth.
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With the advent of the Internet, the number of marketing options available to both budding and experienced entrepreneurs has become staggering.
An introduction to Starbucks is unnecessary.
With more than 18,000 retail locations in 60 countries, the coffeehouse is the picture of success.
Starbucks rode the baby boomer trend in the 1990s, the swelling ranks of mid-age professionals that created the need for a third place, ‘ an affordable luxury’ where people could share and enjoy a cup of coffee with friends and colleagues, away from work and home.
In our opinion, the company has inserted itself into the American urban landscape more quickly and craftily than any retail company in history. It has forever changed the way companies market themselves to customers. Here is how we feel they have been so successful:
The company has stayed with the upper-scale of the coffee market, competing on comfort rather than convenience, which are the case with its closest competitors, McDonald’s and Dunkin Donuts.
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Creativity and innovation … execution
The company continues to focus on its original product bundle that includes good coffee, quality service, and a nice environment to hang around. They keep their attention on paying attention to the details of great execution and service.
Creativity and innovation examples … mobile and mobile payments
“We have to keep pushing innovation inside and outside of our stores, and we have to be as relevant for our customers on their phone, as we are inside the Starbucks experience,” said Schultz, in Geekwire. “And I think that is exactly what we are doing.”
“By further enhancing our already world-class digital technologies, through the introduction of capabilities like Mobile Order & Pay and soon-to-be delivery, and expanding our loyalty program, we are driving traffic as reflected in the 4 percent growth in traffic in Q3—bringing in new customers and deepening our connections to our existing customers, elevating the Starbucks brand and our customer experience, and streamlining our in-store operations.”
In many cases, a mobile campaign is mostly a novelty and consumers are excited by the newness of using their phones in a different way. But back in January, Starbucks introduced a program that made it easier for customers to buy coffee. The brand was ahead of the curve on mobile payments, a segment that is still in its infancy in the U.S.
In March, Starbucks revealed that the plan, which relied on customers using the Starbucks Card Mobile iPhone and BlackBerry apps, was a success. Some 3 million people at that point had paid using the app. For customers, there’s a clear benefit to using the technology — it lets you pay faster.
Starbucks is doing 6 million in mobile app transactions weekly
While many mobile payment apps like Google Wallet have struggled to gain traction with consumers, the Starbucks mobile payments app stands out as a success.
At 6 million average weekly transactions in the U.S., it now accounts for a full 15% of transactions made at the U.S. Starbucks-operated stores.
The Starbucks app is on track to process over $1.5 billion in payment volume in the U.S. in 2014, according to our estimates. In the second quarter it accounted for 15% of the transactions in U.S. company-operated stores, averaging 6 million transactions per week.
Starbucks stores are everywhere, coffee is purchased habitually, the app incentivizes regular purchases through its rewards-loyalty program, and the app works on the majority of smartphones. The app’s success is not due to the ease of payment with a phone. So it has succeeded despite the fact that it is not more convenient than credit or debit cards or cash.
Importance of creativity and innovation … new social media innovations
One of the earliest adopters of the use of social media for marketing and social commerce, Starbucks has certainly taken a leadership position. Their social media strategy is built around their company web site and 6 additional social platforms, including Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, G+, YouTube, and My Starbucks Ideas. We will review Starbuck’s social media strategy in detail below.
So, one way to reward customer loyalty is to provide an app.
In-app customer loyalty programs can truly help businesses go that extra mile in customer retention, encouraging customers to perform certain actions that will grant them a special benefit, such as a discount on their next purchase, VIP access to your new collection, or a coupon to redeem on other services.
An excellent example of how apps can help brands establish long-lasting relationships with their customers is the Starbucks Official App. The app combines a highly intuitive interface with a tailor-made dashboard to offer an enhanced, more personal user experience.
The Starbucks app also keeps users connected to their card, so they can just scan to pay, while earning Stars in the My Starbucks Rewards™ program. By accessing a dedicated section in their dashboard, users can track the Stars collected and redeem their rewards in the loyalty program.
Moreover, the gift section within the app allows users to send gifts and coupons to their friends via the app. This, of course, generates a profitable word-of-mouth campaign around the brand, using happy customers to spread the word via an engaging mobile app. Win-win!
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Starbucks’ new “#sipface” campaign has made a huge splash in the Instagram world. Launched to promote the new Frappuccino Happy Hour menu, the campaign encouraged fans to post creative pictures of their “#sipface” on Instagram which were curated and displayed on Frappuccino.com. Starbucks has been ranked the “fifth-largest brand on Facebook with 34 million fans,” and has over 3.6 million followers on Twitter.
Culture of change and adaptation
Starbuck’s business crowdsourcing, via its My Starbucks Idea website, has been a huge success. Why you may ask? Because they have combined the concepts of change, experimentation, social media, customer engagement, and market research and made the results key components of both their brand as well as their marketing strategy. Have you given My Starbucks Idea a try? What did you think?
Starbucks has clearly embraced the digital realm. With a strong presence on multiple social networks, the brand has set a high bar when it comes to being social and engaging its customers. They are at or near the top of nearly every major brand ranking in social media.
Why is Starbucks such a social media marketing success story? There are seven key reasons their social media strategy is a successful difference maker for their marketing campaign:
Here is our take on why:
The New York Times top news of the day and a selection of articles will be available free via Starbucks mobile app for 10 million My Starbucks Rewards loyalty members, along with the opportunity to earn “Stars” through paid digital and print subscriptions to the pub.
“We see a future in which the Starbucks retail experience seamlessly extends to the mobile devices our millions of customers carry with them every day,” said Schultz, in a press release. “Our relationship with The New York Times is the perfect example of bringing this vision to life.”
Starbucks and Lyft have struck a multi-year deal where all Lyft drivers can become My Starbucks Rewards loyalty program gold level members, with both drivers and riders able to earn MSR loyalty Stars. Lyft drivers can also receive Starbucks eGifts cards from customers via the Lyft app for more personal thank-you.
“This is a great win-win,” said Adam Brotman, chief digital officer, Starbucks, in a press release. “Our digital loyalty ecosystem can help strengthen Lyft’s ability to attract and retain customers, while at the same time accelerating the incrementality of redemption of rewards.”
Sometimes it’s the simple ideas that are the most effective and I love this one from Starbucks. The coffee giant has teamed up with Twitter to launch the Tweet-A-Coffee campaign. This allows people to send a $5 Starbucks gift card to anyone in the US via Twitter.
It’s a really simple idea, users just need to link their Starbucks and Twitter account and mention @tweetacoffee to send the gift card to a friend, family, follower, or anyone for that matter. They can even include a message to let them know that their next Starbucks is on them. Unfortunately for those of us that are outside the US, Tweet-A-Coffee is only available in the states right now.
Starbucks’ CEO Howard Schultz decided to do something about the recent stock market turmoil. He proceeded to address some major concerns—not directly to customers, but rather, to his employees.
All 190,000 of them.
In an interesting memo Schultz spoke directly to employees and encouraged them to show special concern for consumers:
Our customers are likely to experience an increased level of anxiety and concern. Please recognize this and–as you always have–remember that our success is not an entitlement, but something we need to earn, every day. Let’s be very sensitive to the pressures our customers may be feeling, and do everything we can to individually and collectively exceed their expectations.
Credit Schultz with his efforts to use this situation to improve customer service. If I’ve learned anything through the years, it’s that you have to stand up for what you believe in, despite the naysayers. Schultz seems to have a similar view. He’s not without his critics, but his memo shows his refusal to stand by idle.
Customer engagement is not a trivial item for Starbucks is it?
Customer generated content
When Starbucks takes a photo, it shares it on Instagram, posts it to Facebook, tweets it on Twitter, and pins it on Pinterest. It clearly goes to where all its customers like to hang out. Cross-promotion is more valuable as the world becomes more digitally focused.
Each network provides an opportunity to reach a new audience, and integrating your strategy on each is crucial to increasing visibility and promoting the brand.
Another great example of user generated content, Starbucks’ White Cup Contest launched in April 2014. Customers across the country were asked to doodle on their Starbucks cups and submit pictures as entries. The winning entry would be the template for a new limited edition Starbucks cup.
Nearly 4,000 customers submitted entries in a three week span. The contest was a great way for Starbucks to earn publicity and prove that it strongly valued customer feedback.
Starbucks has utilized geofencing, which is where you can set a virtual boundary around a specific location, like a store. Once they cross that set geofence, people with the Starbucks app receive a location-based notification highlighting a coupon or offer and reminding them there’s a Starbucks nearby. This kind of personalization inspires more engagement and brand loyalty and provides the ability for any business to make national campaigns hyperlocal.
Starbucks provides its unique experience through programs such as My Starbucks Rewards, personalized “signature” drinks, and localized store experiences. Their social sites, in particular Pinterest and Instagram, encourage users to share their Starbucks moments’ whether it be the return of a favorite holiday drink or just an artsy coffee cup shot.
Sticking to core USP
Starbucks is another successful business that makes for a great case study on unique selling propositions. They went from a small coffee shop in Washington to one of the most recognized brands in America, and they transformed this country from a nation of Folgers drinkers to a nation of coffee connoisseurs.
To become familiar Starbucks’ unique selling proposition, you can ask this question: “What does Starbucks stand for, and what is it that they’re known for?” The answer is simple: They stand for premium coffee beverages, and they’re known for the same.
Still to learn: 6 Fantastic Facts about the Changing Social Media Landscape
Don’t be fooled! Although Starbucks does offer items other than coffee drinks, what they are uniquely known for are high quality coffee beverages.
The bottom line
Starbucks is one of many businesses we can learn from. Those that do things to fit the system never create change, and a lack of change leads to stagnation – personally and corporately.
How often do you hear “We don’t do things that way here” in meetings? Breaking those corporate habits is critical to maintain momentum in business.
Howard Schulz’s book ‘Onward’ tells the journey of the salvation of Starbucks and is one of the best books I’ve read about connecting culture change to business results.
Lots of ideas here that can be easily replicated … which ones do you feel could benefit your business?
How could you improve the Starbucks Coffee Social Media campaign concept for your business?
Do you like to read the best social media educational blogs? There are quite a few great ones out there. The very best out there, BY FAR, is the one Neil Patel puts out. You’ll find lots of great tips, examples, and actual results from his businesses in his blog. His material in Quick Sprout is also excellent.
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Mike Schoultz is the founder of Digital Spark Marketing, a digital marketing and customer service agency. With 40 years of business experience, he blogs on topics that relate to improving the performance of your business. Find them on G+, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
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