Starbucks unveiled a new third-party skill for Amazon Alexa this morning, letting regular customers reorder their favorite coffee and food by saying “Alexa, order my Starbucks” to a device powered by the online retail giant’s voice-enabled personal assistant.
Also this morning, Starbucks started a limited beta rollout of the previously announced MyStarbucks Barista chatbot ordering feature as part of the Starbucks app for iOS. It uses artificial intelligence to let customers order and pay via voice. Starbucks says the MyStarbucks Barista feature will be available only to 1,000 customers nationwide initially, before rolling out more broadly over the summer. An Android version is expected later this year.
Starbucks’ new Alexa skill was quietly rolled out a few weeks ago, according to the date in the Alexa Skills marketplace. It works via the Starbucks Mobile Order & Pay feature, which lets customers place and pay for an order in advance and pick it up at a nearby Starbucks store without waiting in line.
With the new Alexa skill, customers designate their “usual” Starbucks order in advance and can then place the order from one of the most recent 10 stores they’ve ordered from, using their voice with an Amazon Echo or other Alexa-enabled device.
It’s a notable partnership between the two Seattle-based retail and technology titans. Amazon and Starbucks are likely to cross paths more as Amazon launches new physical retail stores, and Starbucks goes increasingly digital. Separately, at the Starbucks headquarters complex south of downtown Seattle, Amazon has established a distribution center and is developing a mystery drive-up project, according to planning documents previously uncovered by GeekWire.
On its earnings conference call last week, Starbucks said Mobile Order & Pay represented 7 percent of the company’s U.S. transactions in the most recent quarter, up 3 percentage points from the prior year. The feature has been so popular, the company said, that it’s clogging pick-up areas and forcing the company to consider revamping its new store designs.
“The Starbucks experience is built on the personal connection between our barista and customer, so everything we do in our digital ecosystem must reflect that sensibility,” said Gerri Martin-Flickinger, chief technology officer for Starbucks, in a news release this morning announcing the new voice technologies.
She continued, “Our team is focused on making sure that Starbucks voice ordering within our app is truly personal and equally important was finding the right partner in Amazon to test and learn from this new capability. These initial releases are easy to use providing a direct benefit to customers within their daily routine and we are confident that this is the right next step in creating convenient moments to complement our more immersive formats. We expect to learn a lot from these experiences and to evolve them over time.”