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March 19, 2008
Starbucks embraces the 5th P
Everyone's favorite marketing patient, Starbucks, has launched a suggestion box-cum-social network for customers.
MyStarbucksIdea collects the ideas of customers (my guess: just as many employees as customers), puts the ideas up for discussion and a vote. Starbucks says it'll keep members of the socnet updated as the popular ideas work their way through the company.
If Starbucks really follows through with its promise, this suggestion box-on-steroids idea is meritocracy via social network. The congregation is smarter than the preacher, so this could develop into a valuable, and tangible, asset for Starbucks.
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This sounds an awful lot like Dell's Ideastorm. If Starvycks uses it in the same way that Dell is IS, this community-powered tool could have a hugely positive impact on the company.
Mighty exciting times...
We’ll see if SBUX can pull this off. They have virtually no experience in social media. I have my doubts. Especially when their CTO says stuff like this when announcing MyStarbucksIdea.com, “I am not aware of another organization that is investing in making this kind of a commitment to integrate customers and their ideas and their insights into the products and experiences that they develop.”
So, the Starbucks chief technology officer knows nothing of what Dell has done and is doing? Ouch. Not a good sign.
"So, the Starbucks chief technology officer knows nothing of what Dell has done and is doing? Ouch. Not a good sign."
I find it hard to believe that they hadn't heard of Ideastorm. But then again, I think it's a good sign if they were able to come up with a similar idea on their own.
We'll see, but as you point out John, an organization's first social media steps are often messy.
The 5th P is really the first P. Finding out what problems buyers have is where it all starts. Kudos to Starbucks for putting the feedback mechanisms in place. It does create a management challenge though that we see often. Sifting through all of these is not a comprehensive view of the opportunity. The guys at P&G running the Folgers business never heard about the opportunity Starbucks created because they only taked to restaurants and retail stores ... their primary customers at the time. Starbucks should go back to his roots and find out what will make the morning coffee experience more enticing to folks who are not customers today as well.
Have you gone to their site and tried to post an idea? First you have to have a Starbucks account. I’m not sure why but that step alone will stop many people from giving them ideas.
I have an account. But I couldn’t remember the User Name. If you don’t know that you can’t get your password. You have to now contact customer support. Everyone just dropped out that needs to take that step.
I posted what I went through a couple of weeks back when I went to both Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts to purchase gift cards. Starbucks needs to replace the person from Homeland Security who is running their site and make it so you can do things in one or two clicks without having to jump through hoops to give them money.
I applaud Starbucks for this investment (as well as Dell & Nokia for similar approaches) but as many have said, the success of this will depend on 2 primary things: implementation & execution.
On the implementation side: I believe that many companies entering into this pursuit will allow their fears to affect certain decisions. For example, Bob Poole's comment on the hoops one needs to jump through to participate. I'm positive that fear of spam, GREIFERS, and ugly participation needed to be avoided by making registration & authentication mandatory to participate. The other risk as Phil Meyers suggests is the orientation to current customers and not potential or future customers. Starbucks created the national marketplace for passionate coffee drinkers. This decision could impact their ability to create new markets.
On the execution side: It will ultimately come down to authenticity. Can Starbucks make sense of the ideas and turn them into profits? The information and insights from this community will need to be acted on and the community will need to feel heard. I believe they will.
We must say, this is a great idea for businesses to implement if they have the know how and the ability. Not only do the customers get to share their ideas and what they would like to see but it's very inexpensive to pull something like this off if done correctly. Kudos!
I remember a study that mentioned the best way to get your script approved by Hollywood executives: Get collaboration from the decision-makers on your idea. So, if Starbucks can get a flow of customer input to help construct its business, I think they'll create an even more loyal following.
It's great they're trying it. It's a low-cost experimentation that can pay big rewards for them if it all works out.
Losing sight of the forest for the tree here. Last I checked, Starbucks sells coffee in little shops. They don't do online, they don't do social media, and their CTO's comments reflect that this is not a part of their culture.
First of all, enough with starbucks! John Moore comments more than enough on them. I love the wisdom I can pick up at this blog, but Starbucks is all over the place right now.
Second, I honestly think that this is three-card-monte on the part of Starbucks. Dell sells computers, so the model can work for them. Starbucks sells coffee in shops. Why not focus efforts there? Why not make your shops smell good again? Why not give up selling CDs and put the space to better use enhancing the coffee-shop experience? What happened to the quality control that used to ensure that a Soy Carmel Macchiato in Phoenix tastes like a Soy Caramel Macchiato in Pittsburgh? They've lost the in-store aura that was so important to them through the 90s. A cumbersome, half-hearted effort at social media won't fix those larger issues.
I'm always very sceptical to these ways of Idea gathering... even it is in a WEB 2.0 fashion. There are several reasons why this is sometimes even dangerous to do.
1. Only consensus ideas are chosen... and consensus rarely leads to good ideas. You never find a red monkey so to say (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s5eEH4O74eQ Stumbledupon this earlier)
2. Who will be in the project teams? Quite often it's the same folks over and over again... either they have time spare (not a good indication) or they have no time at all because they are on all the project teams + In large organisations it's often the case that teams are composed proportionally (everye department gets a seat)
3. What happens if you don't follow up? Do the loudest voices get through?... so many issues.
I'm not saying these types of initiatives never work, they do... but not if the company doesn't create the right environment.
@McNeal: A system is never perfect.
Some collaboration is better than no collaboration.
Some data is better than no data.
Some feedback is better than no feedback.
Starbucks is wise to unlock the vacuum-sealed decision chamber and let some air in.