Starbucks, Meet Square

  • August 8, 2012
  • Scott

So today I see Jack Dorsey has announced a new deal between Square and Starbucks.  I didn’t intend to predict the future a few months ago, when I wrote about Square’s new Card Case app, and how it changed point-of-sale process:

Even a cashier who doesn’t know you might greet you by name when you get to the counter (or one who recognizes you, but has far too may names to remember!).  One of the great feats of the Starbucks I used to frequent regularly was their ability to remember customer names and faces – and favorite drinks! – and to interact with you on that basis.  This was by no means uniform across all Starbucks, or all employees, but the location I went to was particularly impressive at [this].

If I was designing a retail presence for a cafe, or similar store that attracts regulars, I’d be seriously thinking about the features of Square –  how can you replicate the familiarity with regulars?  How can you make them feel welcome and at-home?  How can you do this without a large infrastructure or IT expense?  How can you make the service more personal than it is today, and differentiate from the competition?

And in another post, about Starbucks, going back further:

In fact, it wasn’t unusual for me to get to the cash register and my drink would be there waiting already made.  [..] I got faster service for being that regular – something I might expect to get at a neighborhood cafe, but not at a big national chain.  The baristas there are my friends – I’ve seen them get married and have kids (and, they’ve noticed when I got married, and when I stopped on the way to the hospital after our kids were born, to get coffee after a long night).

But the other day, the wheels came off… What happened? It seemed like a little thing – and I’m sure the folks in HQ thought they knew what they were doing.  They started printing stickers for the cups instead of writing on them with a marker or grease pen.

As I pointed out in that post – the baristas stopped learning my name, stopped becoming my friends, stopped personalizing the experience – all because the little stickers already had my name on them from swiping my credit card or Starbucks card, and they didn’t have to write down the drink.

So today I see Jack Dorsey has announced a new deal between Square and Starbucks.  If it lives up to expectations, this could help Starbucks bring back some of the personalization they used to have at their stores, without reintroducing the grease pens and markers.

It is a great move for Starbucks – and it makes me look a little more prescient than I really am…


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