It's getting almost to the point where I'm wondering if Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) is a coffee and pastry chain or is it a technology company. Its digital efforts to lure customers in are working, but mostly among the fans it already has to keep them coming back for more. With Starbucks' latest move into wireless charging stations for cell phones, it is going to reel in a whole new crowd.
The new jolts
Starbucks has been a pioneer in all things mobile and retail. The coffee chain claims the no. 1 spot on mobile paying. It' has a large enough lead that it doesn't even know who no. 2 is, implying that whatever company it is happens to be a distant second.
On top of being able to pay, send e-gift cards, and reload your balance using nothing but your phone, Starbucks is in the process of launching a pilot program to allow mobile advance ordering as well.
All of this exciting innovation regarding phone usage is only as good as a phone's battery life, though. Until now, at least. Starbucks is in the process of rolling out wireless charging pads in stores nationwide.
Taking the third place concept to a new level
You may recall that Starbucks' goal is to make its stores your "third place" between home and work. So where do people typically charge their wireless devices? At home and work. Well, now you'll be able to do it at your third-place Starbucks store as well.
Not many of us are carrying our chargers around, but we do often run out of battery life midday. The obsessive-compulsive twitching caffeinated person in me is always on the lookout for any place to charge my phone if it's even down a little. I'll probably end up magnetized to Starbucks.
No doubt this is going to attract people from all walks of life. Even people who don't really care for Starbucks may want to make a pit stop in its stores. Like the little convenience snack shop at the gas station, Starbucks will make its money from inevitable impulse purchases.
In a press release on June 12, Starbucks said that it was partnering with Duracell Powermat to begin its rollout across San Francisco. From there it will expand over time to all of its U.S. locations, with additional pilot programs in Europe in Asia.
Adam Brotman, Chief Digital Officer of Starbucks, said in a statement that the company was pleased with the customer response in the pilot tests. This says to me that the stores that underwent the tests saw a bump up in sales. He stated, "Rather than hunting around for an available power outlet, they can seamlessly charge their device while enjoying their favorite food or beverage offering right in our stores."
Stassi Anastassov, President of Duracell, said in a statement, "This endeavor is a critical step in Duracell's vision to make dead battery anxiety a thing of the past." That's music to my ears. Perhaps literally, from my smartphone.
As if I needed another reason to pop into a Starbucks. Well, now I may have a problem leaving. For a company that prides itself on having 17 quarters in a row of positive same store sales greater than 5% domestically, expect to see this move help that trend continue. It will be interesting to learn what types of sales bump locations with the charging pads see once they are installed. This may be the perfect draw for the typically slow afternoon and evening hours. We'll probably find out more with the next presentation or conference call.