What happens in Switzerland if you forget to buy your latte or cappuccino before you get on the train?
Well, Starbucks has taken the next leap in connecting with customers as they make their rail connections, moving beyond retail locations in train stations across Europe to opening its first store on a Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) car, the national railway line for Switzerland.
The new Starbucks train café is one of the smallest the company has ever designed, and they have managed to include space for 50 people, baristas, a pastry case, standing bar, and a lounge area, all tastefully assembled into a two level train car.
This latest Starbucks retail twist may only be a test, and the first of its kind for the company, but it now officially puts them in planes, trains, and automobiles, and is a smart way to extend the customer relationship and maintain their connection with existing customers while also possibly building new ones in a captive audience situation.
It’s a smart move for Starbucks to test this format even if it fails like Amazon Tote.
It’s incredibly important for companies like Starbucks that sell daily indulgences to be in the places where people are looking to enjoy that little treat, and with the level of quality increasing (at least in the coffee experience) at competitors like Dunkin Donuts, McCafe, Caribou Coffee, and others, Starbucks has to do everything they can to reinforce their premium image and customer loyalty.
The questions every retailer (or business for that matter) must continuously ask themselves include:
1. What type of customer relationship do we have?
2. What type of relationship does the customer have with our product or service?
3. What products and services do we have our customers’ permission to provide?
4. Where do our customers want us to be?
If you have a copy of my popular five-star book Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire, you can dig into the ideas behind these questions more in Appendix A where I look at a number of different “Customer Relationship Types” and “Levels of Customer Permission” in an effort to help you maximize the customer relationship
If you are looking for additional opportunities to serve your customers, maintain existing customer loyalty, and to build new customer relationships, you might also want to check out Appendix B in Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire, where I get into my framework for visualizing the customer purchasing journey and my framework for visualizing the core business operations that support the customer purchasing journey.
And then when you’ve got some ideas that you want to possibly pursue, you might want to run them through The Innovation Baker’s Dozen framework in Appendix C.
There is a lot of great content hidden in the book in various places, which is why it has done so well, and this exploration of the new Starbucks Train is the perfect time to highlight some of the insights captured in the appendices.
So, ask yourself the four questions above, check out the appendices, think about what Starbucks has done with their espresso train and let me know what you come up with!
Here is the official video announcing the Starbucks and SBB collaboration on the Starbucks train experience: