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by Paul Kiser
USA PDT  [Twitter: ] [Facebook] [LinkedIn] [Skype:kiserrotary or 775.624.5679]

Paul Kiser

This week Starbucks continued to add value to its stores and more Re-Imagining seems to be in the forecast. A few months ago Starbucks did the smart move of offering free WiFi for everyone (see article below) and on Wednesday they took it one step farther with a Digital Starbucks that features free web content if you sign on to their WiFi service while you’re in the store.

(Free WiFi at Starbucks)

Now when you use the free WiFi service in any Starbucks you can also read a digital version of the day’s Wall Street Journal, New York Times, or the USA Today. The New York Times requires software download of a reader, but the USA Today loads up its own reader and retains the exact look of the paper copy. The site also includes Yahoo! news and GOOD content.

In addition to news, the Digital Starbucks offers access to a selection of entertainment, wellness, business/career, and local online resources. There is also a page to access most of the functions found on the Starbucks website. It seems apparent that Starbucks has teamed with AT&T, the WSJ, NYT, USA Today, and several others to offer this value-added service. Recently all Starbucks stores received new labeled newspaper stands with the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today in the top three shelves with the local paper given the bottom shelf. In my October tour of stores in Houston, Boston, Denver, and Reno I have seen more papers sold out than I have ever seen at a Starbucks store. Obviously the collaboration is a win-win.

A screen shot of the DG Wellness page

While some information has been sent out regarding the new online features most people have not caught on to the major remake of the log-in page and the new free media resources. That will change over time and I expect Starbucks will see a positive increase in store traffic as customers become aware of what they can access for free at their local store. I have already noticed high occupancy of the key ‘power’ tables (tables next to a power outlet) in almost every store I’ve visited since the free WiFi service started on July 1st.

Starbucks After Hours
The value-added virtual Starbucks is small change compared to what may be coming to some Starbucks locations. As reported in this Monday’s USA Today, the company has been testing wine and beer service at a Seattle location. The three-month remodel of a standard store resulted in a cafe-type look and feel, moving away from the glorified fast food feel of most coffee houses. The move is designed to generate more late day revenue when coffee sales die down. There is little doubt that local bars may find a Starbucks too much to compete with as it creates a middle ground for those like getting out in the evening, but seek a relaxed atmosphere free of loud music and single men on the hunt.

While I remained concerned that Starbucks is allowing accountants have too much say in store operations, I have to congratulate them on bringing value-added service and innovative ideas into the forefront. The winner is the customer … the only person that matters.

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