Those who like their coffee with a shot of augmented reality (AR) are in luck at Starbucks — if they happen to be in Shanghai, that is, visiting the Starbucks Reserve Roastery.
The AR experience, designed in partnership with Alibaba, allows consumers to tour the nearly 3,000-square-foot space using their phone screen as an window into the AR world designed around them. Users can learn how a copper roasting cask works and unlock virtual badges.
The AR Starbucks location also connects directly back to Alibaba’s Tmall, allowing shoppers to contextually purchase related merchandise — like whole bean coffee for home delivery or registering for a specially curated coffee tasting experience.
The launch follows what has been a (several) years-long experiment for Starbucks, but only in the last year and half has the technology become widely available in the market to deliver an experience Starbucks felt was up to its standards. The retailer is also reportedly experimenting with virtual reality content that will make it possible for viewers to “visit” a coffee farm in another country.
Will the average Starbucks customer use the mobile AR app? Hard to say; it is a very immersive experience, but it is not clear how many coffee fans are super fans looking for that experience.
But it is a first step — and possibly a move Starbucks can leverage to create a closer relationship with its customer base.
After all, they did make mobile payments work when everyone else struggled to find adoption.