Monday, January 20, 2014

Starbucks Thinks Local With New Design Strategy

When Starbucks grew from a local Seattle coffee shop company into a worldwide conglomerate, it learned the hard way that planning and designing everything from the central HQ in the Pacific Northwest was not the optimal way to adapt to local customs and conditions. So in a new strategy, the company is sending the design teams out into various regions to come up with individualized approaches that fit their environments. That's how the chain has come up with every kind of adaptation from a doucle-decker train car Starbucks in Switzerland to a jazz-inspired cafe in New Orleans with brass instruments hanging from the ceiling in a makeshift chandelier.  And a new concept for a Starbucks drive-through pre-fabricated from shipping containers has already grown to 11 examples, and may be the model for the 60% of new construction that the coffee giant plans to devote to drive-through locations.

Hunter Communications Original News Source:

Link to article:

Excerpt: "There was a time when Starbucks really was the coffee shop next door, but that was a long time ago. The company opened its first shop in Seattle in spring of 1971 and stayed relatively small (under 100 stores) for the next 20 years. Of course, since then Starbucks has boomed to be the largest chain of coffee shops in the world. Today, there are more than 18,000 shops worldwide.

But let’s go back in time a bit. In the mid 2000s, the chain was doing great, opening a store a day, branching into new territories like Asia and South America. The design team had opening new shops down to a science—or at least a kit of parts that made it easy to launch a cafe with as little risk and time as possible. Come 2007, the economy went south, and so did some of Starbuck’s business. In 2008, the company closed around 600 shops, prompting a change in senior leadership, and ultimately a change in design thinking.

The company polled customers to find out what they thought of their not-so-little local coffee shop. It turned out that for a lot of people Starbucks was becoming synonymous with fast food. 'The customers were saying, "Everywhere I go, there you are," and not in a good way,' Sleeth says. 'We were pretty ubiquitous.' Ubiquity isn’t a bad thing; it meant people wanted what they were selling.

But what’s good for the bottom line (mass production makes things cheaper) isn’t necessarily good for the brand. Starbucks execs wanted to transition from the singular brand they’d been working to establish worldwide, to focusing on more locally relevant design for each store. 'There are lot of reasons people come to us; we know people come to us because of consistency quality, speed,' says Sleeth. 'But we need to do something that felt authentic.' But how?

To Design Local, You Have to Be Local  
They began by getting people out of Seattle. In 2008, nearly all of the company’s designers were stationed at the company’s headquarters in the Pacific Northwest. This meant someone who was designing a new store for a neighborhood in Houston or Chicago or New York had maybe never even been to the city they were creating a store for.

'We couldn’t design locally relevant stores, stores that would resonate with our customers from Seattle,' Sleeth explains. So they began relocating their design team, pushing them out from the headquarters into the actual communities where they would be designing stores. Today, Starbucks’ more than 200 designers are working out of 18 design studios around the world, with 14 of them stationed in the Americas."

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