Wake up and smell the coffee


Wake up and smell the coffee

Over the last few years, more and more coffee shops have been arriving on the high street, as we Brits learn the US lingo of asking for our skinny lattes and flat whites with extra shots. Now a new business development approach is emerging, and they learnt it from the master that is McDonald’s – yes, it’s the drive-thru (sic) coffee bar.
Starbucks recently announced its new sales growth strategy, to open 200 drive-thrus in Britain over the next five years where, just like McDonald’s, car drivers will be able to order their favourite wake-me-up by speaking into a microphone and then driving forward to pick up their coffee from a hatch – all from the seat of their car. 
Drive-throughs are big business in America – two-thirds of McDonald's turnover comes from car-based diners. Kris Engskov, Starbucks’ new UK managing director, says customers want the drive-thru and experiments with ten roadside shops over the last three years have been a success.  “This is absolutely about customers asking for this. The drive-thru meets a customer need,” he said. He added that the move was a great sales technique for attracting new customers, namely people off to work or on the school run, as many people driving around or through town can’t get to a coffee shop unless they park and walk.  Starbucks’ move is also going to create jobs, by taking on an extra 5,000 employees over the five years, adding to its current number of 11,500. 
So does this mean the end of the high street coffee shop? Have they competed themselves out of the market, being that – as we said – there are so many of them: Starbucks, Costa, Café Rouge and so on. Is the high street saturated? Starbucks claims not, saying it is committed to the high street, but wants to develop the drive-thru strategy at the same time. Engskov added: “We’ll continue to develop there, but we need to be flexible. Coffee purchase is driven by convenience, be it a drive-thru, or a kiosk, or retail.”
In which case, this truly is a response to consumer demand: Starbucks’ customers wanted convenient coffee, and to be able to select from all the usual range. The company has identified that the way to pick up business from those needing coffee on the go is to deliver it to their cars. And Starbucks isn’t alone – Costa has drive thrus too – we even have one in my home town of Swindon..!  This new – well, new to coffee – business model is a great example of a company responding to consumer demand and so optimizing its sales and profits.
Marketing theories suggest we have to find multiple channels to new customers; we have to find ways to enhance the value of our offering in our prospects and customers mind.   Multiple channels is an approach that every business should be looking at. OK, drive-thrus may not be for you, Have a look where, in product / service placement terms your prospects come across you. Ask yourself some questions: 
  • Is this current channel to market meeting customer demand?
  • What could be done to enhance the perceived value to that channel from a customer view point?
  • Where else (physically and on-line) will I find a cluster of ideal prospects?
  • How can I set up an attractive and relevant channel to serve that cluster?
I specialise in business development; the strategy – the staff engagement and the skill development. Please get in touch if you consider these relevant to your ambitions

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