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Starbucks - Mobile App Redesign

Updated: Feb 19


Context

This project dates back to 2019, a time when the Starbucks Mobile App was quite distinct from its modern form. If you were a user during that period, you might have found yourself pondering the utility of having the app on your mobile device.


 

Background Story

As a regular at Starbucks, I've consistently encountered certain challenges during my visits.

  • Firstly, the notorious long queues often leave me anxious about securing a seat, especially when I've left personal items like my laptop to 'chope' (reserve) a spot.

  • Additionally, the menu's tiny print is a hurdle. Straining to read it, I, like many others, tend to default to one or two familiar orders rather than exploring new options. This limited exploration is partly due to the minuscule font size and partly due to the pressure to order quickly when it's my turn, often resulting in an automatic, "dark mocha," regardless of my actual preference at the moment.

  • Another point of confusion is the coffee jargon. The difference between a macchiato, latte, cappuccino, frappuccino, and americano remains a mystery to me, adding to the ordering ordeal.

These experiences led me to ponder the potential of the Starbucks App. Ideally, it could offer a space to leisurely browse the menu and place an order when ready. However, back then, the app's functionality was limited to cashless payments and reward point checks, missing the opportunity to streamline the ordering process, at least in Singapore (I was aware the app provided ordering capabilities in the US in 2019).

Consequently, the app found itself relegated to the last page of my iPhone, barely used, maybe less than five times a year and only when I forgot my Starbucks card. Its limited utility made me question why I even downloaded it in the first place.

This personal narrative makes me curious about the experiences of other Starbucks customers. How do they navigate these challenges, and what are their thoughts on the app's functionality?


 

Interviewing the Users

Finding the Right Interviewees

To ensure the interviewees would provide relevant and insightful information, I established specific criteria for participant selection:

  1. They must be frequent patrons of Starbucks, visiting the cafe at least once a week.

  2. They should have downloaded and used the Starbucks App for a considerable period.

With these parameters, I successfully identified 5 individuals who fit the profile perfectly.


Conducting User Interviews

The interviews were structured to uncover the challenges these regular customers face both in the cafe and while using the app. The questions posed during the one-on-one sessions included:

  1. How often do you visit the Starbucks cafe?

  2. On a scale of 1 to 5, how would you rate your overall experience at the cafe?

  3. What draws you to Starbucks so frequently, and what aspects do you particularly enjoy?

  4. Are there any elements of your cafe visits that you find less enjoyable or inconvenient?

  5. How frequently do you use the Starbucks mobile app?

  6. What are your primary uses for the app?

  7. Have you encountered any challenges or frustrations while using the app?

  8. If you had the authority to make one change to any aspect of Starbucks, what would it be?

These questions were designed to elicit detailed feedback, providing a comprehensive understanding of the user experience both in-store and digitally, through the Starbucks App.


 

Synthesising the Findings

After conducting the interviews, I utilised affinity mapping to organise and analyse the collected data, leading to the following insights:


App Engagement and Usage:

The engagement with the Starbucks app among the participants was notably low. The primary, if not exclusive, use of the app was to check for reward points, indicating a potential underutilisation of the app's capabilities or a lack of compelling features.


Positive Aspects of Starbucks Experience:

Participants shared favourable views about certain aspects of Starbucks, including:

  • The availability of a 24-hour cafe service.

  • The conducive environment for work.

  • The pleasant ambiance for socialising with friends.


Challenges Faced by Customers:

Several issues were commonly reported by the participants, shedding light on areas for potential improvement:

  • Long queues for ordering were a concern for 3 participants.

  • One participant mentioned the slow-moving queue due to payment processing.

  • The noise level was a concern for one participant, affecting the ambiance.

  • Incorrect orders were also an issue for one participant, pointing towards service errors.


Opportunities for Enhancement:

Based on the feedback, several opportunities to elevate the Starbucks experience were identified:

  • Increasing seating capacity to accommodate more customers.

  • Providing more power outlets to cater to working individuals and groups.

  • Introducing delivery services to extend the reach and convenience.

  • Implementing online ordering and pickup options to streamline the purchasing process and reduce in-cafe waiting times.


These insights paint a clear picture of the current state of the Starbucks experience from the perspective of regular customers and highlight tangible areas for enhancement, both within the physical cafes and in the digital app experience.


 

Defining Opportunities and Problems

Can the Starbucks app be leveraged to address the existing issues? Absolutely.

The app has the potential to serve purposes beyond its current scope, offering solutions to enhance the customer experience significantly.

Targeted Problems for Resolution:

Based on the insights gathered, the focus will be on addressing these key issues identified by the participants:

  1. The Long Ordering Queue: This was a common pain point, indicating a need for a more efficient ordering process.

  2. Slow Queue Due to Payment Processing: This issue underscores the need for a streamlined payment system to expedite the overall service.

By harnessing the capabilities of the Starbucks app, these problems present opportunities to significantly improve the customer experience, both in terms of efficiency and satisfaction.


 

Exploring the Problem Space and Ideation

The gathered data clearly indicates that long queues are a substantial inconvenience for Starbucks visitors, with one participant even missing breakfast due to the wait time.

The question arises: Can we completely eliminate queues? Realistically, no. But, can we offer a way for customers to "skip" the queue? Potentially, yes. If customers don't have to physically stand in line, it significantly reduces the perception and inconvenience of queuing for their orders.

This insight aligns with a suggestion from the participants: introducing online ordering and pickups. This feature would essentially remove the need for customers to physically wait in line. They won't have to endure the stress of rummaging through their bags for cash or cards anymore.

While their orders would still queue up to be prepared, customers won't have to be present in line, changing the dynamic of the waiting experience.

Implementing this solution offers several other advantages:

  1. Enhanced Menu Visibility: An easy-to-navigate menu with appealing images can be more inviting and accessible, encouraging exploration and trial of new items.

  2. Coffee Education: The app can serve as an educational platform, enlightening customers about different types of coffee and potentially elevating their appreciation and experience.

  3. Simplified Customization: Ordering through the app can streamline customization options, reducing the chance of errors typically made during verbal orders.

  4. Ordering at Convenience: Customers gain the freedom to place orders whenever they're ready, adding to the overall convenience and satisfaction.

This ideation phase opens up a pathway to revamp the Starbucks experience, leveraging technology to address fundamental pain points and enrich the customer journey.


 

User Flow

The creation of a user flow was instrumental in mapping out every step a user must take to successfully place an order, as well as in identifying potential points of failure.

This comprehensive approach ensured a thorough understanding of the user's journey, from initial engagement to the completion of an order, and highlighted areas where the process could potentially be streamlined or improved to enhance the overall user experience.



 

Design

Jumping directly into high-fidelity prototypes is a step I took, though it's generally not considered best practice. (Note to Self: In future projects, it's important to build up from low-fidelity prototypes to ensure a more iterative and feedback-driven design process.)

However, given the personal nature of this project, I proceeded with this method.


 

User Testing

Reflecting on the User Testing Process

The process of selecting participants for user testing brought an important realization: the feature primarily benefits users with hectic schedules.

This insight aligns perfectly with the profile of one of the interviewees – a 27-year-old working professional with a demanding job. This prompted me to seek out participants with similar lifestyles for the user testing phase.

The feedback from these participants was overwhelmingly positive. They appreciated the new feature for several compelling reasons:

  1. Time-Saving at Peak Hours: They no longer need to spend 15 minutes queuing at Starbucks in central business districts, where wait times can be extensive, especially during lunch hours.

  2. Pre-Arrival Ordering and Scheduling: The ability to place orders and schedule pickups before reaching the office streamlined their morning routine.

  3. Satisfying Cravings Amidst a Busy Schedule: The feature made it easier for them to indulge in their Starbucks favourites even during hectic days, adding a small joy to their routine.

  4. Overall Convenience: The feature introduced a significant level of convenience, transforming their Starbucks experience into a smoother, more enjoyable process.

This learning aftermath underscores the importance of aligning features with the specific needs and lifestyles of the target user base, ensuring that the solutions provided truly resonate and add value to their daily lives.


 

Thank you for your time and attention in reading this 😊.

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