Powered by the free Starbucks WiFi and with the intent of building a round-the-clock patronage, Starbucks announced the launch of two new services this week. Starbucks Digital Network will offer exclusive content to all of its in-store customers and a barista bar is being tested in Seattle where regional wines and beers will be added to its beverage offerings.
The Starbucks Digital Network's built-in HTML5 was designed for all mobile devices from notebooks to smartphones and I'm sure the iPad crowd will be lingering for even longer periods of time now that Starbucks has basically given them a license for 'free office' space.
Starbucks Digital Network
The networks' content will feature news, entertainment, business, health and even local neighborhood info channels. Foursquare and LinkedIn have already signed partnership deals along with the New York Times, iTunes and WSJ.com.
Stephen Gillett"Our customers are the inspiration for the Starbucks Digital Network. They’ve told us they want to be the first to know what’s happening in their neighborhoods and around the globe, to have an easy way to discover new music, great books and important films and find ways to be more involved in their communities. And they’re connecting with the brand digitally in numerous ways,” said Stephen Gillett, Starbucks chief information officer and Digital Ventures general manager.
But while poets, artists and neighborhood philosophers have long seen coffeehouses playing an important role in elevating onversations and social interaction dating back to the 50s and the Beat Generation in the US - Starbucks is now introducing alcohol to the caffeinated set.
The addition of beer, wine and hors d'oeuvres are aiming at transforming the old Starbuck's venue format into an all-day hang-out. The first test store on Olive Way in Starbucks's hometown of Seattle was rebuilt so customers can sit, mingle and unwind with a brew or tasting of their choosing.
Since about 70 percent of all Starbucks' patrons frequent the outlets mainly in the AM, the new concept will allow customers who came in for a $4 cappuccino in the morning to return for a $9 glass of wine and a cheese platter on their way home.
Presently testing the format in Seattle, the baristas who have been trained to make special coffees will now learn how to serve the hard stuff. According to a Weekly World News Report, Frank Lane satirically noted, "they intend to keep their customers high and then help bring them down." Being in the "buzz" business, Lane goes on to say, that once California legalizes marijuana, he can see Starbucks "selling joints and bong hits," as well.
On a more serious note, with Starbucks turning 40 next year, it is looking for innovative ways to transform its brand into a hipper and savvier venue. The company wants the stores to seem more welcoming and part of the neighborhood scene. Based on closing hundreds of stores in densely populated urban cities like Manhattan, the stockholders are concerned about the company continuing to provide a substantial return in the market. The chain coffeehouse industry presently is ultra-competitive bringing in approximately $15 billion annually.
Interesting to note, that while Starbucks Digital Network interfaces with social media, alcohol service has been known to attract a crowd that usually wants to connect socially 'old school' - namely face-to-face. While location-based social networks like Foursquare might be instrumental in attracting an online crowd to the venue - what it really comes down to at the end of the day- is who you want to share your next "brewski" with in the real world. From that perspective, Starbucks might have found the golden formula in keeping their cash registers humming all day long!