Costa’s story has killer insight for every brand

Customer service is something of a theme in this issue. There’s a dedicated feature and there are masses of tips in our retail peer panel for anyone looking to give their customers a bit of extra value.

But I want to talk coffee. I’m a regular in a branch of Costa near Oxford Circus. I go there sometimes for coffee in the morning before coming into work. Other times, I go across the road to a branch of a coffee shop called Reynolds in Eastcastle Street. There is little in my decision-making process that either the large corporate coffee chain or the small, local business could exploit to swing my loyalty. The staff in both places know me by sight so I can count on a cheerful ’hello’ and service is good in both outlets.

Product-wise there’s also little to split them in my humble opinion. I came late to coffee. I’ve only been drinking the stuff for a few years. What’s more (and get ready to frown if you’re Italian), my preference is for the simplicity of the black Americano. So I’m hardly a coffee-connoisseur. Costa’s coffee is, according to its ads, officially tastier than that served at Starbucks, and Reynolds has a blackboard outside its door boasting of its ’really rather good’ organic coffee. I’m more than happy with both.

“The secret to Costa’s growth? Insight. A head-to-toe look at the entire business with every positive change based on customer insight”

In fact my decision on where to spend my money of a morning largely depends on what I fancy eating for breakfast at my desk whether a Costa egg sandwich or a Greek yoghurt pot with honey from Reynolds. Like most people I’m a creature of habit.

I am a normal consumer, a promiscuous coffee customer, and these are the challenges of the global coffee war.

Marketing Week associate editor Ruth Mortimer went inside the Whitbread-owned Costa coffee chain to discover how it has been winning that war. Costa has driven a 23% increase in worldwide sales in the past six months alone and is the UK’s third largest food and drink chain. It fights this war on the streets of our cities every day and, with 700 of its 2000 stores abroad, also has an ever growing picture of what customers want in China, India and the Middle East.

The secret to Costa’s growth? Insight. A head-to-toe look at the entire business with every positive change based on customer insight. It doesn’t matter if you’re not in the coffee chain business. You need to read this feature. It contains about a hundred clues as to why our Marketing Week Engage Awards judges chose Costa as Brand of the Year back in May. It might not win my business every day but there are definitely reasons it shares my loyalty.

Mark Choueke, editor

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