ISSUE NO. 68 07/25/12

A recent ShopperSight news story (see ShopperSight News, issue 67, "Shoppers Cynical About Retailer's Response to Feedback") highlighted the results of an Empathica study that found shoppers say they will be more loyal to retailers who respond to their feedback despite the fact that many don't think retailers are really listening to them. So in the spirit of finding ways to listen, really listen to shoppers, ShopperSight News is taking a look at a retailer that has invested significant time and effort into creating a forum dedicated to listening to its customers - Starbucks.

In 2008, the coffee chain created a web site, My Starbucks Idea, dedicated to collecting and sharing feedback from customers and employees about products (new products, coffee flavors, branches, etc.), experience (atmosphere, music, payment methods, staff changes, etc.) and involvement (building and engaging community, social responsibility, etc.). The site asks visitors to not only share their opinions but also comment on others' ideas as a way to build the online community. Finally, there is a focus on making "ideas happen." In just its first year, it collected as many as 70,000 ideas and claims to have implemented around 50.

The momentum has continued into 2012 with up to 200 ideas acted upon, which include:
• Mobile payments are now accepted in drive-thrus
• Recycling bins in stores
• Happy hour for hot beverages
• Launch of the Starbucks Armed Forces Network
• Introduction of the Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappuccino

The effort is not without its detractors however. Originally touted as the gold standard in social media engagement, some analysts and marketers questioned whether the hosted community was truly impactful. One particularly methodical assessment from Brand Autopsy conducted in 2010 inventoried the changes Starbucks claimed to have made based on customer input. It concluded that only 6 out of 53 changes made to date had actually come from customers rather than employees or hadn't previously been in the works, a surprisingly low number that calls into question Starbucks' authenticity.

Though the effort has received mixed reviews about how many ideas are truly new or are from actual customers (versus employees), claims about its inauthenticity miss the point. My Starbucks Idea is a dedicated forum for talking with customers, and creating community within. It requires a deep investment from Starbucks, one that demonstrates a genuine and long-term commitment from the brand. Consider your brand and its efforts to truly listen to shoppers. Though not all ideas need to be acted upon, all ideas should be showcased to demonstrate that your organization is actually hearing customer input, a critical component to growing loyalty.

Was this helpful?

"Shoppers Cynical About Retailers' Response to Feedback," ShopperSight News, 7/12/12

"The Starbucks App is Now Drive-Thru Friendly," My Starbucks Idea, 3/26/12

"Tough Love for Starbucks," Brand Autopsy, January 2010

"My Starbucks Ideas Boost Customer Loyalty, Profits and Employee Engagement that U.S. Restaurant Chains Can't Ignore," Retail Industry, 6/30/12
feedback, My Starbucks Idea, shopper engagement

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