Starbucks announced its new voice-enabled ordering feature on Monday for customers using iOS or Amazon's Alexa platform. While the concept of voice-enabled commands isn't a novelty, it is for Starbucks, and as such, it's billing the new shtick as its "next step toward evolving the digital customer experience."
Frequenters of the popular coffee chain know all too well about some minor mishaps when ordering, where customers would sometimes have to repeat their orders to the Barista because the first time wasn't really that clear. That could be negligible soon, if the voice-enabled feature delivers.
Starbucks' Voice-Ordering Feature
Starbucks promises its new voice ordering capabilities will book orders accurately, as was suggested last year, when the company previewed the feature during its investor day presentation. The demo involved a verbose and long-winded order that could not possibly be understood all at once by the software, but it did, and it was seamless.
How It Works
Voice ordering within the app will allow customers to order and pay for Starbucks products using only their voice. Be it a succinctly worded, or an impressively unabridged order, the assistant will determine it accurately. The interface does not look, but functions a lot like Siri. Users who issue commands interact with the software via a thread, where photos corresponding to the orders are pulled up for confirmation.
Of course, there's also the option to just text instead of speaking. Users may also modify their orders in-app to match their preferences.
The company is serious about this: It thinks that voice ordering will be the future for those so inclined to prefer digital. The feature is an extension of Starbucks Mobile Order & Pay, which allows customers to order and pay for products before even landing on the designated store. Starbucks says that its digital ecosystem personalizes the customer-to-barista relationship.
"The Starbucks experience is built on the personal connection between our barista and customer, so everything we do in our digital ecosystem must reflect that sensibility," said Gerri Martin-Flickinger, CTO of Starbucks.
Building On Its Digital Ecosystem
A select few — Starbucks says 1,000 nationwide — will now be able to order coffee "on command" using My Starbucks Barista starting Monday as part of a test rollout integrated into the Starbucks mobile app for iOS. The company has now also rolled out the Starbucks Reorder Skill for Alexa.
The feature is part of the company's recent strides in beefing up its own digital ecosystem. Starbucks has had success in encouraging customers to order using their smartphones — Mobile Order and Pay represented 7 percent of all transactions at U.S. company operated stores in the most recent quarter, up from 3 percent in the previous year, as reported by Fortune.
It doesn't look as glamorous on paper as it does in real life, however, as Starbucks Mobile Order and Pay has suffered some logistical challenges, particularly with the sheer number of customers using the feature against a given store's capacity. Sales were hurt last week because of the program's popularity. Walk-in visitors often opted to leave upon seeing a store's gargantuan crowds waiting for their orders; people who have already placed orders via their phones.
Starbucks executives are promising that the issue will be soon be fixed.
A broad rollout of the voice ordering feature is planned to be pushed out throughout the summer. An Android version will be released later in 2017.