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This Is Uncomfortable
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Starbucks, potential tech juggernaut?

Queena Kim and Raghu Manavalan Dec 8, 2014
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Starbucks, potential tech juggernaut?

Queena Kim and Raghu Manavalan Dec 8, 2014
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If you’ve been to a Starbucks lately, you might’ve used your smartphone or noticed other customers using theirs to pay for their lattes.

Now Starbucks is taking another technological step forward by rolling out a fleet of Powermat wireless phone chargers in its stores.

They may help curb arguments with power-outlet hoarders, but the chargers serve a larger purpose – to burnish the Starbucks brand. The company’s adoption of new technology is just as important to its image as the quality of its coffee beans, says Jonah Berger, a University of Pennsylvania marketing professor and author of the 2013 book “Contagious: Why Things Catch On.” 

“Starbucks is an older brand, you know, it’s not the new kid on the block,” Berger says, “So, seeming like they’re technology-forward, like they know what’s going on … will move [them] from [looking like] sort of a fuddy-duddy company to somebody that’s on the cutting edge.”

But this strategy comes with risks, Berger says. If customers don’t like the chargers, the technology could come off as gimmicky.

All sorts of restaurants are looking to technology to appeal to younger customers

“McDonald’s, the Coffee Bean, Madison Square Garden also use the Powermat. Starbucks is not the only one out there,” says Betsy Sigman, a Georgetown University business professor. 

When done right, Sigman says, access to new technology gives customers another reason to go to the restaurant and spend more.

Starbucks wants to do more than sell more coffee to young people, Berger says. It also wants to influence the way technology is adopted.

If Starbucks can become “the market-maker” for this technology  and Berger notes that it’s a big “if”  the company could become a bigger player in the tech industry.

 

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