Since the pandemic began, I’ve learned a lot about brewing a great latte.  But that didn’t stop me from travelling to my local Starbucks every day for a much-needed escape even if it was only at the drive-thru.  So, you can imagine my surprise when I learned Starbucks is planning to close 300 of its stores in Canada by April 2021.    But the more I think about it, the more I realize that Starbucks is doing what every forward-thinking business builder should be doing…

The pandemic has changed consumer behavior permanently — and Starbucks customers quickly adapted to the mobile app, drive-thrus, and pick up.  No longer are the relaxed, cozy meeting spaces that Starbucks became known for available to customers.  Like most businesses, the pandemic is accelerating the transformation to new business models.  It will be exciting to see what the “new” Starbucks looks like.

For all of us business builders, big and small, now is the time to explore if our business needs some tweaking, in essence, a redesign.  Customer needs have and will continue to change, business models for product fulfillment are changing and the best news is that the customers for your product or service are now willing to consider new options.  It’s the perfect time to start reimagining and repositioning your business to grab this opportunity.

Here are 4 questions to explore on a whiteboard as you ponder tweaking your path forward:

  1. Do we truly understand our customers’ needs today? As business builders, we all think we understand our customers’ needs — but do we really?  Are we harnessing all of that “Big Data” to its fullest?  We have the ability to engage with customers today like never before – involving them in every aspect of our business.  The old adage is true:  “the reason a business exists is to delight its customers”.  Starbucks has a large, loyal dedicated group of repeat customers – many who visit the store 16 times per month.  They are the marketing and product development engine feeding their likes, dislikes, thoughts, ideas and opinions.  A wealth of insights about the changing behaviors of Starbucks customers.
  2. Is our differentiator still a difference maker for these customers? My guess is that Starbucks recognizes that the in-store experience is not a sustainable differentiator for the future. Customer needs have changed and with this comes the search for a new difference maker.  Starbucks built its brand on the relaxing, high end atmosphere it provided for meetings, connecting with friends and of course, remote work.  Now, with needs changing, what is the new difference maker? The pandemic has pushed more customers to the mobile app and drive thru.  It will be interesting to see what unfolds with this shift by its customers.
  3. Does our fulfillment provide the best possible experience for customers? In my opinion, the Starbucks fulfillment experience is exceptional.  Before most of the industry was even contemplating a mobile app, Starbucks hit the market with a powerful mobile app to create customer stickiness:  auto-reloading, reward points, and more.  What followed was the ability to mobile order.  This is a simple, slick fulfillment system and I believe gives them the runway to move forward.  Your fulfillment system is the “last mile” for delighting your customers – it’s the experience customers remember and talk about with others.  Get it right and you build a following.  Get it wrong and well, you get publicity of the wrong type.
  4. How do we align our people and processes for the path forward? We need to look internally as well.  What about our people – what training and development will be needed?  Do our processes need to change and if so, will we require new infrastructure? Someone reminded me the other day that we are in the people business – people are what makes everything hum.  Roles will change and new skills will be required and it’s our job to navigate the path forward while keeping our people energized and passionate about what we are doing.

Invest a little time exploring these 4 questions — gather your team and invite discussion and debate.  Who knows — maybe a few small tweaks to your business design could be the difference maker for your business?