How Starbucks Combines Content, Commerce and Coffee

12/08/2013 3 min read Written by Roman Kniahynyckyj

starbuckscontentThis past Friday, my desire for a change in office scenery and no calls on my calendar triggered a visit to that quintessential third place - Starbucks. There's nothing like a Friday afternoon and some espresso to crank through some heads down, task oriented work. 

After being showered with the world-class barista customer service we've all become accustomed to, I unexpectedly sat down to a content optimization tour de force. First off, I connected to some lightning fast Google Wifi and then had access to Starbucks' in-coffeehouse digital network offering free content from the New York Times and other exclusive media outlets. I also easily set up my own personal Starbucks account to refill a Starbucks card and even receive text messages from Starbucks. Maybe Starbucks is the true inbound marketing guru no one knows about yet? 

And I thought I was just coming in for a latte and a change of scenery. 

You may not sell coffee. But my Starbucks experience offers valuable insight in how to properly treat a 'user' or 'visitor' whether you have someone landing on your website or coming into your store. Let's deconstruct my Starbucks experience a bit...

The Product

If I'm going to pay $4 for a cup of coffee, it better be good, damn good. And my Gingerbread latte with real molasses drizzle did not disappoint. Lesson one - if your main product is crappy nothing else matters and no amount of marketing will be able to save you. Go big or go home. Your market is too crowded for any new offering that is mediocre. 

The Value-Add

I had plans for caffeine and work. What I got was Google-fast Wifi and a personalized content and commerce portal. As Starbucks intended - it felt luxurious - affordably luxurious. I received what I expected but my expectations were exceeded by everything from the technical and content infrastructure I was able to plug into for several hours, to the cleanliness of the physical environment, to the curated music playing in the coffeehouse. For $4, I'll take it. 

The Total Experience

The experience, as you can see, is worth writing about and sharing. And it's instructive - whether you have a brick and mortar store that sells bikes or only have a website that sells consulting services - it is the experience you offer. If a website visitor converts as a lead on your consulting website, what sort of value are you offering them - is it remarkable content, a lead nurturing campaign, or possibly even a call from an expert consultant? Alternatively, if you are the owner of the bike shop, what sort of specialized value are you offering legitimate 'leads' that walk in your front door? Maybe it's a lesson on proper seat height when riding a bike. Or maybe it's a physically printed out bike buying poster. Here's another way to look at it - if you're selling someone an $800 bike, how can you provide $1,600 of value in that sale? What can you do to offer twice the retail value of your product or service? Think about it. I "rented" several hours of a Starbucks for $4. And the experience (and work I completed) was much more valuable than that. 

Regardless of your product or whether your primary sales tool is a website or office space, how are you bridging commerce with content that helps you sell and differentiates you?


By: Roman Kniahynyckyj

Roman has been helping clients develop and implement revenue enhancing inbound marketing strategies since 2009. Prior to becoming an inbound marketer, Roman was a management consultant with Ernst & Young, Booz Allen Hamilton, BearingPoint, and KPMG. Roman's relentless focus on client satisfaction and client results has garnered accolades from many clients and teams.

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