In the business world today, focusing on the customer is probably the most important thing companies can do. Don't believe me, ask Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon and customer experience advocate. In this blog post alone, you'll probably hear me use the term 'customer experience' at least 7 times. It's that important.
So, what exactly do I mean by customer experience? If you're a techie, you might immediately think of user experience (UX) and your favorite smart device or mobile application. While customer experience and user experience share similar characteristics and probably overlap quite a bit (in order to have a positive customer experience with a product, the user experience, meaning the way the phone or application works - the design, navigability, ease-of-use, all need too be very polished and user friendly).
No, today, I want to highlight Starbucks and its ability to innovate not just on the digital and e-commerce side of its business, but also on how it physically adapts its stores to its diverse customer base and avoids a "cookie cutter"-like design strategy. See below the an image I found of the first ever Starbucks store on Wikipedia:
Now, if you're not a Starbucks regular like myself (in fact - I sit here writing this post at the Starbucks location in Northville, Michigan), you might question the whole premise of this blog post, saying "Tim, that honestly doesn't look too different from other Starbucks I've passed on my morning commute". And you're probably right. In the coffee retailing industry, Starbucks faces fierce competition, from companies like Dunkin Donuts and McDonald's to franchises and independent coffee shops. As a result, in order to ensure that a customer can identify with Starbucks and become brand loyal, there are certain characteristics of their storefronts that need to communicate a consistent message (logo, colors, merchandise). However, its the differentiation Starbucks is doing with their interior that is really impressing me. Just last week, Starbucks released an news article entitled Back to Campus: Starbucks Store Designs Perfect for Hitting the Books. In the article, Starbucks talks about the design processes it took for adapting its stores to the students of George Mason University in Virginia, American University in Washington D.C., and George Washington University in Washington D.C. Check out the store layouts tailored to the studious Starbucks-er here.
This isn't really news for Starbucks, though. They've been adapting their stores to the tastes of their customers for years, see below for some of the most uniquely design Starbucks locations:
CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, like Amazon's Jeff Bezos, has always been adamant on customer experience and focusing on the customer, even in difficult times. Since the introduction of Starbucks, and by extension, a movement towards coffee education and appreciation within the United States, Schultz has referred to the Starbucks stores as "the third place". A place to deliver second-to-none customer experiences in a unique environment where people can wind down after work with a book, catch up with friends, or finish that term paper they've put off until the night before (or in my case, a blog post). I really admire the things Starbucks has done not just in the coffee industry, but as a company steadfast on delivering real value to their customers; I'm eager to see what's in store (no pun intended), for them.