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.
If you’re a member of your local public radio station, we thank you — because your support helps those stations keep programs like Marketplace on the air. But for Marketplace to continue to grow, we need additional investment from those who care most about what we do: superfans like you.
Your donation — as little as $5 — helps us create more content that matters to you and your community, and to reach more people where they are – whether that’s radio, podcasts or online.
When you contribute directly to Marketplace, you become a partner in that mission: someone who understands that when we all get smarter, everybody wins.