Starbucks, Alibaba Group to transform the customer experience in the coffee industry in China

By Muneerah Bee

Starbucks Coffee Company and Alibaba Group Holding recently announced a deep, strategic New Retail partnership that will enable a seamless Starbucks Experience. Collaborating across key businesses within the Alibaba ecosystem, including Ele.me, Hema, Tmall, Taobao and Alipay, Starbucks announced plans to pilot delivery services beginning September 2018, establish “Starbucks Delivery Kitchens” for delivery order fulfilment and integrate multiple platforms to co-create a virtual Starbucks store – a more personalised online Starbucks Experience for Chinese customers.

The global companies said they will build on their distinct retail and technology strengths to revolutionise the customer experience. Starbucks’ CEO Kevin Johnson said: “Our transformational partnership with Alibaba will reshape modern retail and represents a significant milestone in our efforts to exceed the expectations of Chinese consumers. Starbucks China is one to watch and I have full confidence in the team that will bring the new innovation behind the Starbucks Experience to life.”

Daniel Zhang, CEO, Alibaba Group, added: “Starbucks is more than a destination for premium coffee and we share the same vision to pioneer a new coffee culture and lifestyle through innovation and technology. Alibaba is thrilled to expand our existing partnership with Starbucks by leveraging our cutting-edge New Retail infrastructure and digital power to enable an unprecedented experience for consumers.”

Starbucks will pilot delivery this September in 150 stores located in key trade zones in Beijing and Shanghai with plans to accelerate and expand its delivery programme to more than 2,000 Starbucks stores across 30 cities by the end of 2018.

Ele.me and Starbucks collaborated to develop a customised delivery infrastructure that has been “meticulously determined” each step along the way, including dedicated Ele.me delivery riders, precise delivery time and custom carriers. Both companies said they have created a tailored order-to-delivery Starbucks programme that upholds the experience and quality that customers have come to expect in Starbucks retail stores.

“Ele.me has a robust infrastructure for on-demand delivery in China. We are pleased to partner with Starbucks to launch these reliable and trusted delivery services to satisfy customers’ needs and capitalise on the delivery sector’s great potential. It is an important milestone for Ele.me to deepen our collaboration with retail chains and further expand our penetration in the food delivery sector,” said Wang Lei, CEO of Ele.me.

Starbucks will also partner with Hema supermarkets to be the first retail brand to establish dedicated “Starbucks Delivery Kitchens” within their locations. The kitchens will utilise Hema’s fulfilment and delivery capabilities to complement the delivery of handcrafted Starbucks beverages offered through existing Starbucks stores. The coffee chain will also leverage Hema’s consumer insights and fulfilment expertise to further penetrate and better serve the needs of individuals and families in communities across China.

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