State Of The App: Starbucks Vs. Peet's Coffee & Tea

This week I wanted to tell a tale of two coffee shops and their respective mobile experiences.  One is a literal business school case study in how to do it, while the other is slightly less so.

First off, I should lead with the fact that I’m a fan of Peet’s more than Starbucks. When given the choice of the two, I will choose Peet’s 100% of the time. (I’ve actually never had a cup of coffee in my life but I love a good tea, especially a good chai latte.)

All that being said, the Starbucks mobile rollout was a master class in branding and marketing.  It led to a revolution for how brands engaged with their customers and how retail has leveraged the mobile channel to improve the in-store experience.   

That app was installed on Starbucks customers’ phones inside of a month and baristas often referred to it, further supporting its perceived value. There was a media blitz for the app — it was mentioned in the consumer press and the trades, and even the major morning talk shows were buzzing about the tool.  The app was everywhere immediately and it was so user-friendly that adoption spiked right out of the gate.  To date the experience of Starbucks’ mobile app is industry-leading.



It was only a matter of time before Peet’s would have an app in-market. I found myself so many times wondering when it would be released.   A few weeks back I noticed a sign pop up in my local Peet’s that referred to a new app.

Being the kind of early adopter that I am, I downloaded it on the spot and was hoping to have the same “Starbuckian” experience, but I was slightly disappointed.  As a customer and as a marketer I was confused.  

From the perspective of the customer, I was unsure whether checking in was separate than the “Peet’s card” I was filling with money.   No one adequately explained that checking in was also paying and the first few times I found myself stumbling through the app to flash both QR codes to make sure I didn’t miss out on points!  

Of course the folks at the counter weren’t clear either and the first couple of times were awkward and uncomfortable.   Now we’re a few weeks in, and I understand that checking in also pays for my order, but I find myself scratching my head as a marketer, wondering why they aren’t touting this app more.  The baristas behind the counter don’t seem to want you to use the app.  There are also no other reasons for me to open the app other than receive emails with special offers.  Its not an experience for me – it’s a marketing channel for them.

The ability to pay for my drinks at the counter is table stakes, while  Starbucks offers the ability to order ahead and music engagement that at least attempts to broaden my experience with the brand.

 The Peet’s app at this early stage feels like a “me-too” execution but lacks the vision for where it’s going. I feel like a marketing team checked off the box to get the app out the door, but didn’t explain the longer-term vision to the customer.  It almost feels like they did a soft launch, hoping not to come out of the box with installs blazing so they could gauge customer interest.  

Mobile is a way of life, one that’s not going away anytime soon.  I’d think Peet’s should be looking at this as an all-in strategy, trying to uncover ways to exceed customer expectations and surpass its largest competitor.

I’m a loyal Pete’s customer regardless of the state of its app. But I think a brand with such passionate fans should be able to find a more engaging experience in a mobile platform.

2 comments about "State Of The App: Starbucks Vs. Peet's Coffee & Tea".
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  1. Steven Newman from Newco Media, August 16, 2017 at 2:19 p.m.

    I too, am a fan of Peet's over Bux - and this has been a major sorce of frustration for me over the years, resulting in Peet's losing a TON of business from me.  You did not mention that the iOS version of Peet's app has been out for a couple years;  the ANDROID verison was just recently relased.  Poor marketing considering Android sales surpass iOS.  When I asked Peet's customer service dept. about this (nicely), they came back with a very weak response that showed no loyalty nor appreciation for a longtime, loyal customer.  Peet's has more to learn that how to develop an app;  they need to learn what customer service means to an organization that expects to grow and "compeet".  :)

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, August 16, 2017 at 4:36 p.m.

    Back to management again.

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