Q&A: Starbucks vice president of marketing

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Q&A with Starbucks vice president of marketing for the EMEA region Brian Waring: As Starbucks launches its My Rewards loyalty programme and iPhone payment method in the UK, Marketing Week spoke to newly promoted vice president of marketing for the EMEA region, and former UK marketing chief Brian Waring, about developments in the UK and overseas.

Marketing Week (MW): How will the My Rewards launch be marketed and promoted?

Brian Waring (BW): The rewards programme is our latest move to add value for customers. They were telling us they wanted a programme that was simple to use, personal and really rewarded the fact that they were visiting us regularly. There will be a significant in store campaign, press and online activity as well as an incentive to win a month of free coffee for registering.

MW: Is there scope to extend the programme and increase the number of levels beyond the first two that are launching to give additional benefits to “super loyal” customers?

BW: That’s a good question and potentially yes. There are no plans at the moment and we believe the two tiers are simple to understand, but at some point in the future we could extend it.

The other thing we plan to offer is other exclusive benefits to Gold members that will develop over months and years as the programme evolves. We will respond to what we’re hearing from customers and what they’re looking for and respond over time.

MW: Because the programme works digitally, can you track what every customer is ordering and offer bespoke offers to specific customers?

BW: If customers opt in and would like to hear about exclusive offers, then yes. For example if you’re a hot chocolate customer or an Americano customer, we could target you with specific offers. There are significant opportunities with CRM to build a closer relationship with our customers, but we’d want to do that in a way that is right for the customer and those that proactively request that service.

MW: There are some early criticisms of the programme and benefits in comparison to the US scheme on Facebook, what are the differences between the US and UK reward programmes and why?

BW: There are subtle differences and the reason we launched this structure in the UK is learning from customer research. The biggest difference is that in the US, level 1 is about customisation rewards [like free shots and syrups] and the Gold level 2 rewards frequency of visits. In the UK, we reversed that to fit the behaviour of UK customers. Level 1 rewards frequency with free drinks for every 15 stars collected, and level 2 offers free customisation options.

All existing cardholders will automatically qualify for Gold level, so no one will lose benefits, but now in addition they will get a free drink with 15 visits.

What we recognise is that there are a significant number of loyalty programmes in the UK and we wanted one that rewarded all our customers, and the frequency reward does that. The customisation reward, is really for customers that do that already.

MW: You’ve said that My Starbucks Rewards is next step of adding value with additional digital services like free wifi and iTunes downloads. Are there plans for a UK version of the Starbucks Digital Network, which runs in partnership with Yahoo! in the US?

BW: It’s no surprise that we are looking at it and we have gathered some interesting learnings from the work we’ve done in the US. Clearly one of the things we’ll be doing is reflecting on how we’re building our digital infrastructure and offer generally, but as you’d expect me to say, there is nothing to confirm at this point.

This year there will be a number of big things for us in terms of innovation generally, and lots more news to follow whether its digital or about other aspects of our business.

MW: How have customers responded to the introduction of free wifi in stores and the partnership with iTunes to offer a free music or book download each week?

BW: The response has been extremely positive, on both its probably been higher than expected. Wifi use has increased four fold a new download every week creates something interesting and new for all our regularly cusomters so we are very confident that offering it to all our customers is absolutely the right thing to do.

MW: In the UK you have worked on a lot of innovation and digital development, in your new broader EMEA role, what are the new challenges and focuses you’re looking to take on?

BW: I’ve enormously enjoyed focusing on the UK and will remain very involved but am excited about the opportunities across EMEA. We have a presence in 32 markets across the region from the UK to Germany, Russia, The Middle East and North Africa and there is an enormous opportunity. The UK is our biggest EMEA market, but countries like France and Germany offer enormous opportunity because they aren’t as established as the UK market.

What I really want to do is work with the teams to ensure we’re building our brand and our business in all of those markets and learning from the great work we’ve done in the US and the UK.

MW: Could we expect to see similar innovations that have launched here and the US roll out across the region?

BW: If they are right for the market, yes. We don’t take an approach that says because it works in the US it will work in other markets. Part of my role is leveraging the great things done in the US and UK but also establish ideas and innovation and leadership from the region.

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