Starbucks is launching a delivery service in 2015 as a convenience to customers who don’t want to leave their home or desk for a java fix or vanilla bean scone. The service will roll out in Portland, Oregon in December 2014 and nationwide the second half of next year. Customers will use a newly released mobile app to place their orders and pay.
“Imagine the ability to create a standing order of Starbucks delivered hot to your desk daily,” CEO Howard Schultz said when announcing the new service last week. He added that the new service "seamlessly integrates mobile ordering and our proprietary loyalty program with point of sale and store operations [enabling] us to enhance our customer experience, exceed our customer's expectations or convenience and extend customer loyalty"
Starbucks’ plans for delivery hit at a broader point: Local retailers need to consider how to compete with the convenience and seismic growth of online shopping. As large online retailers and mail-based subscription services like Warby Parker and Birchbox make shopping from home easier as ever, local small businesses should also be taking steps to make their shopping experience carefree—whether that includes hand-delivering orders to customers’ doorsteps or using mobile apps to enhance the shopping experience.
Some local businesses have already started offering home delivery as a way to compete with a growing threat from e-commerce. Designer Dog Salon, a pet food and pet supplies store in Paxton, Illinois, began a delivery service for customers within a 30-mile radius of their business earlier this year. Justin Bouse, who owns the store with his wife Courtney, told the News-Gazette that inspiration for home delivery came from an older customer who had trouble carrying 30-pound bags of pet food from her car into her home.
Moreover, a large crop of delivery services has sprung up in recent years to help local small businesses offer same-day delivery to their customers at a relatively low price.
Experts say that offering delivery service is one more way that small businesses can differentiate themselves and compete with online retailers. Phil Dumontet, founder and chief executive of DASHED, a company that provides delivery for more than 700 restaurants in the Northeast, wrote in the Washington Post earlier this year that there are many compelling reasons for small businesses to offer delivery right now. But it needs to be done thoughtfully. Businesses need to ensure their customers have a positive experience with the delivery service. They also need to make sure their delivery service stands out.
“If everyone else in your space is delivering, what will be your differentiator?” Dumontet asks. “Maybe your drivers will dress in tuxedos or used advanced technology, or maybe you will provide a small gift to each of your customers.”
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