COFFEE LOVERS can get a digital upgrade with Alibaba’s “New Retail” partnership with US cafe chain Starbucks, who are opening a two-story, 30,000-square-foot, tech-infused interactive site in Shanghai, China.
The Shanghai Roastery will be one of two Starbucks roasteries – the first is located in Seattle – and marks the brand’s most significant foray into Asia to date, according to Alizila. The location will be able to accommodate onsite consumption and sale, featuring small-lot Reserve coffee sourced from around the world – but that’s nothing compared to the high-tech offerings that will accompany it.
The Shanghai location will be the first of 27,000 locations that will integrate a consumer journey featuring real-time, in-store experiences through augmented reality technology (AR), a staple of Alibaba’s New Retail sales strategies.
Much in the same way it has done with other global brands such as Victoria’s Secret and L’Oreal, Alibaba is introducing a new way of shopping and consuming through its mobile Taobao app.
As has been proven to be a tried-and-tested method of engaging with their consumers, Alibaba’s digital technology will allow consumers to access virtual maps of different stores, menus, and a feature that lets them save favorite Starbucks products to their accounts.
True to their roots as an online retailer, Alibaba has been exploring the frontiers of the future of digital commerce for a few years now. What has emerged is a blending of technology and traditional retail that has proven to be a winning formula. For instance, their Home Times store has brought a whole new meaning to the showroom-concept, with augmented reality tech allowing consumers to imagine their dream home in real-time.
Similarly, the Starbucks Roastery will come equipped with AR technology that will bring all kinds of informational value for visitors and customers. Using the Taobao AR function on their smartphones, customers can scan features around the venue to get details about coffee bars, brewing methods and roasting processes. It’s all been keyed into visuals and animations that make the best of the future of entertainment-shopping.
The Alibaba-built system will also gamify the customer experience, a strategy that has been implemented in other New Retail locations. Customers moving through the Roastery can collect badges by interacting with features, and engage deeper with the brand through photo filters that can be shared directly to social media.
“The affinity we have built with our partners [employees] and customers over the past 18 years in China is special, and we knew we must bring the Reserve Roastery, our boldest, most-premium store ever, to Shanghai,” said Howard Schultz, executive chairman of Starbucks Coffee Company, in a statement.
China will be a key market for Starbucks to penetrate beyond the shores of its US home. It’s embarking on an aggressive plan to expand throughout the country, adding to its current 3,000 stores in 136 countries. The Shanghai Roastery is due to open on December 6.