How Starbucks Got Tmall Right in China – New Report


Starbucks has enjoyed great success in China, but moving their coffee experience over to Tmall (their first global e-store) was a huge challenge.   The Seattle-based global brand got it right, in fact, they really ‘nailed it’.  Find out how.

Starbucks provides a great case study of how to enter and succeed in China.  Starting their first store when the idea of coffee culture was very much a ‘foreign concept’, the brand put in the ‘hard yards’ to educate local consumers, and provide a consistent experience through their increasing number of stores.

When the market started to get more competitive, Starbucks placed further emphasis on localizing their menu offer and retail environment.   This allowed the brand to continue the lead the category, despite the arrival of Costa Coffee and Hong Kong’s popular chain, Pacific Coffee.  The early emphasis on brand building also limited the damage as fast-food brands, KFC and McDonald’s, got into the ‘local coffee game’ with cheaper per-cup pricing.

As part of this effort, Starbucks has more recently offered ‘Starbucks Reserve’ to the market to capture increasing connoisseurship, built in-part from their earlier success.   This has included innovative retail concepts, including a flagship store in Western city Chengdu – that fuses Starbucks’ visual identity with the design of a local teahouse.

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A section of Starbucks’ Tmall site – promoting gift cards

How Starbucks Became a Tmall Sensation

Launched in December last year, Starbucks’ Tmall store became the most popular on the B2C site’s Food and Beverage brands – amassing 300,000 users in a little over two months.

In the report, we detail how Starbucks communicated the co-brand masterfully to create a genuine ‘fourth space” for their coffee fans.  A winning component was how elements of the physical store environment were used as ‘prompts’ to the digital Tmall store.   Also Starbucks used dynamic design ideas to to create buzz and drive traffic during the Christmas season in China – an increasingly relevant holiday for the Starbucks’ faithful.  Throughout the campaign, Starbucks created levels of personalization and convenience that made use of their Tmall platform seamless and beneficial.

Look out for our latest CSBR report later on Starbucks later in the week – available immediately for Members.  Become a Member – click here.    To see the full range of reports available to CSBR Members – click here. 

About Author

Jerry Clode

Jerry Clode is Head of Digital & Social Insight at Resonance. He leads Resonance SMART, providing leading-edge research, strategy and naming for brands in China using bespoke methodologies. Jerry also produces Resonance's popular China Social Branding Report, a bi-weekly publication covering modern marketing methods of the world's top brands.

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