May 15, 2017

Where in the US are Starbucks mobile customers most frustrated?

Starbucks’ wait problems are well-chronicled, and the headlines are clear: mobile ordering, which was supposed to make service more efficient, has produced the opposite effect.

We used SIGNUM for Restaurants for a much more detailed look at the issue.

Clearly, over the last 4 years, Starbucks has seen a major uptick in the conversations around mobile that drive sales.

Starbucks Mobile App Conversation

In theory this is a good trend, as almost every brand is eager to connect with its audience members on their smartphones. Starbucks has made a big mobile push both as way to delight customers and to add greater efficiency behind the counter.

It’s concerning, however, that customers aren’t exactly thrilled with Starbucks' level of service around mobile. Here’s the same chart as above, but this time with SIGNUM for Restaurant’s sentiment analysis.

Starbucks Mobile App Negative Sentiment

At the buyer level, as conversations about the mobile app grow, so does the red area beneath the chart; that’s negative sentiment. Over the last 3 months, Starbucks’ customers have been 64.3% more negative than positive about sales coming from their mobile apps.

Next, we drilled down one level deeper and figure out exactly with whom the problem is most glaring. We looked across dozens of interest groups and demographics, hoping to zero in on segments of the American population most frustrated with the mobile service experience at Starbucks.

Interestingly, out of all the different slices of the population, one group popped the most: the Northeast region.

In the Northeast, the upward trend of mobile use mirrors that of the general population in the first chart but sentiment is much more starkly negative. In the northeast, over the last 3 months, Starbucks customers are 208% more negative than positive about sales coming from mobile. That is significantly above the national average of 64.3% over the same period.

This data may not be too surprising on a cultural level. Without delving too far into broad generalizations, we think it’s fair to say that folks in the Northeast tend to be more impatient and seemingly rushed. But whatever one thinks of the regional culture, the negative sentiment problem around the app still exists, bleeding revenue from Starbucks’ bottom line.

The important next move, then, is to understand the specifics of the complaints. Take a look at this word cloud.

Starbucks Mobile App Negative Sentiment Northeast vs South

This visualization compares the top negative-sentiment terms of Starbucks customers in the Northeast (blue) versus those in the South (brown).

Northeastern customers are much more concerned about their “mornings,” which doesn’t seem to be an issue in the south. Yankees are also complaining about the “process” and the “system” while southerners seem more frustrated with the baristas themselves. Dunkin Donuts is also a popular term in the Northeast, in that customers often juxtapose the two popular regional coffee chains. Lastly, it doesn’t seem to be about money for the folks above the Mason-Dixon line; those terms only pop for Southerners.

How can Starbucks take of advantage of these insights? The mobile app service problem is most pressing in the Northeast. The word cloud shows that those customers want proof points that Starbucks is on top of the issue, since the “process” is often a target of complaints. Starbucks could therefore show signs of innovation in its store and counter design. Additionally, the chain could better staff up in the morning within those locations, and maybe have a team in each store dedicated to mobile execution. Some Dunkin' Donuts coffee fans, many of whom loyal to the chains for decades in the region, could be a tough win so Starbucks could perhaps offer discounted or unique baked goods in those geos to win back and steal market share. There are several specific actions Starbucks could take to drive more sales from this look under the hood of its mobile service.