Starbucks Brings Dark Social Into Play For Better Market Position

The American coffee chain use to bring their product development and marketing more coherent to reach trends faster and get better insights.

Starbucks is now exploring how it can use private groups and accounts on social media to better engage with consumers around product development and testing as it looks to evolve its social media strategy.

As a speaker in an event recently held by social media consultancy The Social Element, EMEA Starbucks’ VP at Marketing and Product, Reuben Arnold said the moves are helping it have deeper connections with the customers and bring product and marketing closer together.

Arnold said,

What I’m most excited about [on social media] is some of the possibilities around private groups and private accounts on social media channels. hen we think about the crossover between product and marketing, it really allows us to have a much deeper conversation with certain customers who really do care about our brand, who can then get much more involved in things like product development and testing, and we can use the audience in a much more meaningful way.

The groups are mostly on Facebook at the moment, although Arnold told Marketing Week Instagram is also “starting to take shape”. And while they won’t replace more traditional market research practices, Starbucks hopes this can offer a more natural way of engaging and enable it to go deeper with consumers.

He continued,

Because I look after marketing and product, that really is quite an exciting opportunity. Like a lot of brands, we use trend analysis but social is a great channel to look at where those trends are starting to gain traction. Then through our own audiences it’s about how we create a highly engaged audience.

The crossover between product and marketing allows us to have a much deeper conversation with customers who really do care about our brand, who can then get much more involved in things like product development.

Arnold also continued,

We do that with online panels but [that] is a less natural way for people to communicate and it’s not so interactive. You can do conjoint analysis on an online panel but I find that when it’s in more of a conversational environment, it allows us to be more dynamic with our questioning and explore what resonates.That really helped us think, we need to get ahead of this, particularly given some of our development timelines. Listening outside our own channels is important.

The coffee company is also using SM not only to listen but also see what customers are saying about the brand and the products, especially trends in the market.

Social media allowed the brand to see that the conversation was shifting from a point around intolerance to one around health and wellness, and then taste with dairy-free alternatives for instance.