Even if you’re a Dunkin Donuts fangirl at heart, or someone that only patronizes small cafés, you can’t deny that Starbucks is dominating the corporate world right now. After having a slump in 2008 and 2009, the company is back with a new logo and new outlook on business.
There’s a variety of environmental, financial, and even political reasons why Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz, landed the coveted spot of Fortune’s 2011 Businessperson of the Year. Here’s how Starbucks is playing the business game and the takeaways you can apply to your own brand.
Starbucks knows the value of a repeat customer. This is why they’ve set up the My Starbucks Rewards program to encourage brand loyalty. I’ll let you peruse the specific details, but basically, the more you spend at Starbucks, the more freebies you get. The customers are probably spending more, but they appreciate the perks and the faux-VIP status of the gold card they receive at the highest tier of rewards. (This blogger included.)
Starbucks has always said that they want their stores to feel like the “third place”: somewhere you go regularly that isn’t work or home. This is why their stores are stuffed with tables, chairs, and 30-somethings working on the next great American novel.
They’re rounding out the year with a holiday alternate reality app.
Takeaway: Let your customers know that they rule. Even if you don’t have rewards programs or comfy armchairs, you can offer discounts or top-notch customer service. Make your clients know much you value them so that they turn into repeat customers.
Protect your environment
Starbucks is taking great strides to reduce their carbon footprint. They’ve installed lighting with lower energy consumption, reduced water usage, and set out used coffee grounds for customers to take for their garden. They offer a 10 cent discount on any beverage if you bring your own mug. And they have teamed up with MIT to make sure that 100% of their cups are recyclable by 2015.
Takeaway: Help the earth when you can. No longer can companies just stomp all over the environment and expect to be considered awesome. Consumers want to know how you impact the environment and if you’re doing anything to help. You’ll have a better brand image and your employees will be happier.
While I hope that coffee never, ever goes away, Starbucks recognizes that there’s a significant portion of the population that doesn’t drink coffee or wants to pursue healthier options than the white chocolate mocha. So this is why they acquired many coffee alternatives, including the tea company Tazo in 1999 and juice company Evolution Fresh this year. In addition to adding juice products to their coffee shops, they’re planning to open independent stores tentatively titled “Evolution by Starbucks.”
Takeaway: Keep up-to-date with current trends. If pink is all the rage, offer more pink items; if people like pineapple, add a new pineapple flavor. Just make sure that you keep offering the product you’re known for. Nobody wants to go the way of Krispy Kreme.
Support your community
In addition to making Starbucks profitable again, Howard Schultz has also become quiet the political activist. He said that he’s sickened with how dysfunctional Washington is, and that he’s not going to make any campaign contributions to any current politicians of either party. He also asked other CEOs to join him, and over 140 did.
So instead, he’s focusing on creating jobs in America. His program, Create Jobs for USA, seeks to raise donations for community development financial institutions. These institutions will loan the money to small businesses, and ideally, with more money, the businesses will start to hire more employees.
Takeaway: Even if you don’t have Starbucks’ resources, you can still make an impact in your community. Do group volunteering, have a food drive for your local pantry, or donate some of your proceeds to charity.
Did you know the strides Starbucks has taken to be a socially responsible company? Is there something else that you admire (or don’t admire) about the coffee giant? Do you use any of these in your company?