The World’s Most Interactive Starbucks

This week Starbucks announces the opening of its Reserve Roastery in Shanghai, Starbuck’s largest store in the world offering an immersive new retail experience, powered by Alibaba Group’s technology.

China is the fastest growing market for Starbucks, with a store opening every fifteen hours in the country. Following its global domination of coffee houses, Starbucks wanted more than just ubiquity. The brand says it has now delivered something bigger, and better this time, with a bit of help of Alibaba’s technology. The Shanghai Roastery will be the first Starbucks location to integrate a real-time, online-offline customer experience.

The World’s Most Interactive Starbucks roaster reserve shanghai alibaba e-commerce news online retail technology

Starbucks’ two-story, 30,000 square-foot coffee store is the biggest Starbucks in the world, which will put almost 400 employees to work. While this will be the company’s second roastery reserve following Seattle, it’s the first to offer fully immersive digital experiences, developed in partnership with Alibaba group.

Alibaba has combined its Taobao mobile app with augmented reality (AR) to create a “new retail experience” for coffee loving Starbucks consumers. In fact, this new store is such a big deal, that Starbucks executive chairman Howard Shultz flew in from Seattle to personally give Alibaba’s founder Jack Ma a tour prior to its official opening.

“What we really wanted to achieve was not only opening a retail experience unlike any in the world, not only a coffee store, but a retail experience that would take the customer, in a multi-sensory experience, including leveraging peoples’ mobile device.”

The World’s Most Interactive Starbucks roaster reserve shanghai alibaba e-commerce news online retail technology mobile app tmall jack ma howard shultz

Through Alibaba’s Taobao mobile app, visitors can view augmented reality-powered digital menus and details of each coffee bar, brewing methods and merchandise.

They can scan parts of the store as a way to engage with its AR features. The app then delivers fun visual content, information about products, including how the roasting process works – to their phones.

There’s a lot more to discover about the store than meets the eye, using Alibaba’s mobile Taobao app. Coffee silos within the store, for example, can be scanned to find out what kinds of beans they’re storing, or a steampunk machine within the store can be scanned to see what it does.

The World’s Most Interactive Starbucks roaster reserve shanghai alibaba e-commerce news online retail technology mobile app tmall

Customers can unlock a virtual badge using their smartphones each step of the way through the store, and once all the badges are earned, they receive a custom-roastery filter to commemorate the moment and share it on social media. This experience also extends to Alibaba’s online marketplace, Tmall, allowing customers to purchase Shanghai Roastery and Reserve branded merchandise and whole bean coffee for delivery directly to their homes.

The new store also leverages off Alibaba’s location-based technology. Tmall knows when an app user enters the store, and automatically brings up fun features for consumers, such as a map of the store (handy, given its mammoth size), the different coffee drinks available in the store and customers can even book curated tours of the store and coffee tastings as well via the Tmall app.

Starbucks’ new Shanghai Roastery Reserve was designed to wow and delight China’s increasingly sophisticated tech-enabled online shoppers, who have an expectation for world-class products and experiences.

“Nobody thinks you can sell coffee like this. Nobody can imagine. I feel so proud of Starbucks, and Alibaba is honoured, really honoured to work with you,” said Ma at the store’s official media launch. The new Shanghai Roastery officially opens on 6th December.

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