Starbucks launched its first virtual store in China powered by technology from Alibaba Group, providing a unified, one-stop digital experience across the Starbucks app and mobile apps within the Alibaba ecosystem, including Taobao, Tmall, and Alipay.
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The first-of-its-kind virtual store leverages an online management hub developed specifically for Starbucks by Alibaba. It provides consumers integrated access to Starbucks’ digital offerings, including “Starbucks Delivers,” “Say it with Starbucks” social gifting and merchandise available from Starbucks’ Tmall flagship store.
Alibaba’s technology streamlines the shopping process, pulling offers that were available in multiple digital apps into a single access point. Adopting a centralized approach to its mobile presence enabled by the Alibaba ecosystem, Starbucks now has a complete overview of its consumers’ actions online. Moreover, the integration of membership between Starbucks and the range of Alibaba apps is expected to fuel strong growth in Starbucks Rewards membership in China.
The new virtual store steps up the collaboration announced by Alibaba and Starbucks in August 2018, when the companies agreed a deep, strategic “New Retail” partnership. Ele.me, China’s leading on-demand food delivery platform, owned by Alibaba, provides Starbucks delivery service for 2,000 stores across 30 Chinese cities.
In October 2018, Starbucks also piloted its first “Star Kitchens” within two FRESHIPPO (previously known as Hema) supermarkets in Shanghai and Hangzhou. As the first retail brand to establish a dedicated back-of-house presence in FRESHIPPO locations, each Star Kitchen utilizes the distinct fulfilment and delivery capabilities on-site to complement the handcrafted beverages offered through existing Starbucks stores.
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The launch of Starbucks’ virtual store is also the latest example of how the so-called “Alibaba Operating System” empowering traditional retailers. After years of development in this digital age, Alibaba has created a unique system to support enterprises in the process of digital transformation that covers critical areas such as retail, marketing, finance and logistics.