Starbucks Launches E-commerce in China


As China has modernized, coffee and café culture has become an increasing part of urban life in China’s big cities.  Starbuck’s has been at the forefront of this cultural shift, building their number of stores in China to two thousand across ninety-nine cities nationwide.


088 Starbucks Tmall Flagship Store

Importantly, Starbucks has not rested on its laurels, continually innovating their propositions to match the increasing sophistication of local coffee drinkers.

An integral part of this has been the roll out of “Starbucks Reserve” in selected local stores, where new pour-over blends are introduced to local enthusiasts.  The bespoke proposition is now available at forty-five stores nationwide.

Starbuck’s Tmall Flagship Store

As part of Starbucks Chinese local adaption, the Seattle brand has created its first online store on Alibaba’s Tmall in December last year.

Designed as an extension of the brand’s retail store experience, the Tmall site allows locals to digitally share gift coupons with friends and family.  The e-store has enjoyed dramatic success since its launch, with Starbucks reporting that they have over 300,000 registered users already.  This represents the best performing Tmall store in the “Food and Beverage” category based on the site’s first month.

The success of the Tmall site signals that Starbuck’s ambitions for China are on course.  Starbucks plans to open a further one thousand four hundred stores locally by 2019.

Starbucks cards. (Joshua Trujillo, Starbucks)

Starbucks Gifting Cards

Creating a Chinese Digital Ecosystem

To remain ahead of international café competitors such as Costa and Hong Kong’s Pacific Coffee, as well as cheaper coffee offers from fast food brands McDonald’s and KFC, Starbucks has committed itself to creating a comprehensive digital ecosystem for China.

In addition to their new Tmall store, Starbuck’s has also created an app and online rewards program for their local fan base.

Look out for Director of Smart Jerry Clode’s article of how Starbucks created a new category norm in China- next week on Social Brand Watch.

About Author

Tracy Zhang

As a Masters graduate of Foreign Trade, Tracy started her career helping supermarket brand City Shop to source the ‘hunger’ of Shanghai’s internationalizing consumers. Now that she has found her passion in consumer research, she is helping develop Resonance's ground-breaking ethnographic offer.

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