Starbucks’ First Foray Into In-Store Augmented Reality


Starbucks has revealed its first in-store augmented reality (AR) experience. Shoppers at the first Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Asia can have an immersive  AR experience all over the store.

For example, a customer can stand in front of the roasting cask in the store and, via their mobile phone, peer inside the cask. They can then watch an animated version of newly roasted beans dropping into the cask and virtually see them resting before they are whisked through copper pipes to the coffee bars. They can also read about the process a bean goes through on the way to becoming a cup of coffee.

“It’s like Alice in Wonderland meets Willy Wonka,” said Emily Chang, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Starbucks, China. “It’s one thing to imagine a fully integrated in-store and digital experience, which brings together the impressive scale of the Shanghai Roastery with the highest quality small-lot coffee beans. It’s quite another to watch the AR experience get built, and come to life.”

Customers are invited to download the Roastery’s app when they enter the The Shanghai Roastery building. When they point their phones at key features around the Roastery, such as the cask, new information comes to life, serving as a digital tour guide. Along the way, customers collect virtual badges, and once they’ve earned all of them, they’ll receive a custom Roastery social media filter to share.

“We wanted to create a completely new brand experience for our customers,” said Chang. “Because you know, coffee is already such a deeply sensorial experience, even before the first sip: from hearing the unmistakable sound of beans being freshly ground, to inhaling that rich aroma and sipping your perfect blend, brewed just right. We wanted to take that customer experience even further.”

Visitors who don’t download the Roastery app, but who have a QR code reader on their phone, can still have a virtual experience by scanning QR codes embedded around the Roastery that unlock insider information, invisible to the naked eye. Starbucks’ scene-recognition software and AR experience is powered through a partnership with Alibaba Holding Group Ltd.

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