Starbucks has showed off an innovative use of Microsoft's Office Add-ins technology to process coffee gift vouchers and enable customers to book business meetings and pre-order coffee through a smartphone.
Starbucks CTO Gerri Martin-Flickinger explained more about the concept at Microsoft's Build 2016 developer conference, saying that the firm is always looking for innovative ways to attract more customers.
The ex-Adobe Systems CIO laid out how much information Starbucks now possesses on its customers, explaining how even the company's celebrated Clover brewing machines are now IoT-connected with Cover.net, which "drives the brewing recipes".
"We have a lot of data. We do about 90 million customer transactions a week. We know information about what people buy, where they buy it and how they buy it, and we understand things about our distribution channel and our inventory," said Martin-Flickinger.
"And when you think about that big data problem, it gives us an amazing opportunity to stitch data together and provide personalised experiences in our stores with things like music, but also experiences for our customers to give them special offers."
Martin-Flickinger talked about the "happy birthday treats" sent to registered customers, adding that the company intends to keep building on this "human experience" to attract more customers.
"One of the ways we've recently engaged digitally with the human experience is through mobile order and pay applications," she said.
"In fact, today 17 million people use that application to order and get their Starbucks coffee, and 21 per cent of all of our transactions in the US are not done with cash [or] plastic credit cards, but with mobile pay on a phone."
This shows that Starbucks customers like innovation and "like interacting with Starbucks in new and interesting ways", according to Martin-Flickinger.
The next step is to take some of that "Starbucks magic" and bring it closer to customers to enable the purchase of gift cards, which one in six adult Americans have received at some point, with only three clicks.
Using an Add-in code extension for Microsoft Office and Outlook, Microsoft's team demonstrated how easily a customer's details, password and gift card can be processed and issued.
"You can even co-brand them for projects," Martin-Flickinger said, showing a Microsoft Build logo on the animated voucher.
She also showed how customers can use a smartphone to set up a meeting at Starbucks. The firm will make the Add-in available to the public very soon.
Both examples handled by the Add-in are relatively small and simple innovations, but they demonstrate the way that small-transaction consumer industries can capitalise on the spread of connectivity as the IoT takes hold.
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