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Retail
Published: 12 Jan 2018

Mixed Reality: Starbucks’ AR-Boosted Coffee Roastery, China

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Starbucks Reserve Roastery Shanghai

Coffee behemoth Starbucks is tapping into the idea of ‘mixed reality’ brand experiences – the merging of real and virtual worlds, including augmented (AR) and virtual realities (VR) – with its fully immersive 3,000 sq ft flagship Reserve Roastery in Shanghai.

Coffee consumption in China has nearly tripled in the past four years, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Looking to engage with the country’s swelling coffee-loving demographic, Starbucks is giving coffee a new dimension through the in-store integration of AR technology. Accessible through a custom-designed Roastery digital web-app platform or on Alibaba’s Taobao app, visitors are invited to take an educative tour into the world of coffee roasting via their smartphones.

Encouraging self-steered exploration, as discussed in Rise of the Exploratorium, users simply point the camera of their mobile device at the Roastery machinery (such as the two-storey copper cask), unveiling animated images and video content detailing what happens to the coffee beans. Users unlock and collect digital badges for participating in the tour to receive a custom Roastery filter that can be shared on social media – see also Social to Store.

The AR platform also provides a digital menu displaying details of the coffee bars and brewing methods, and alerts consumers using mobile payment platforms Alipay and WeChat Pay when their order is ready.

The digital experience also extends to Alibaba’s online marketplace, Tmall, where consumers can purchase Reserve coffee and Roastery merchandise or register for specially curated in-store coffee-tasting experiences. 

For more on AR and VR, see Retail Tech: Future-Shaping Tools & Trends in 2017/18.

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