Powered by technology from Alibaba, Starbucks launched its first virtual store in China on Dec. 14, providing a unified, one-stop digital experience across the Starbucks app and mobile apps within the Alibaba ecosystem such as Taobao, Tmall, and Alipay.
The first-of-its-kind virtual store leverages an online management hub developed specifically for Starbucks by Alibaba. It provides consumers with integrated access to Starbucks’ digital offerings, including “Starbucks Delivers”, “Say it with Starbucks” social gifting and merchandise available from Starbucks’ Tmall flagship store.
Alibaba’s technology streamlines the shopping process, collecting offers available in multiple digital apps into a single access point. Adopting a centralized approach enabled by the Alibaba ecosystem, Starbucks now has a complete overview of its consumers’ actions online.
The collaboration between the two companies started in August 2018 with a strategic “New Retail” partnership. New retail is Alibaba’s strategy to redefine commerce by merging the online and offline world. One of their first moves was to offer Starbucks delivery through Alibaba’s food delivery platform Ele.me. The service is available in 2,000 stores across 30 cities in China.
In October 2018, Starbucks also piloted its first “Star Kitchens” within two FRESHIPPO (also known as Hema) supermarkets in Shanghai and Hangzhou. As the first retail brand to establish a dedicated back-of-house presence in FRESHIPPO locations, each Star Kitchen utilizes the distinct fulfillment and delivery capabilities on-site to complement the handcrafted beverages offered through existing Starbucks stores.
The launch of Starbucks’ virtual store is also the latest example of how the so-called “Alibaba Operating System” empowers traditional retailers. After years of development in this digital age, Alibaba has created a unique system to support enterprises in the process of digital transformation in critical areas such as retail, marketing, finance and logistics.