Starbucks’ Frappuccino Happy Hour Doesn’t Produce Expected Sales Results


Picture this while yet another snowstorm looms in the forecast — think of spring: The sun is shining, the temperature is starting to rise — and Starbucks is offering a cool deal on its frozen sweet Frappuccino drinks. For many consumers, the coffee chain’s annual Frappuccino Happy Hour, which typically comes in May, is a sugary reprieve from the heat. But it’s not such a sweet deal for Starbucks and their baristas, according to Reuters.

For one thing, the Frappuccinos, which are the company’s signature sweet blended drinks, are more labor intensive than the chain’s other beverages. And, for that reason, they’re not very popular among the company’s baristas.

One Starbucks employee, for example, called the promo “A Barista’s Worst Nightmare.” Still, during the promotion in 2017, Starbucks offered half priced fraps between 3:00 P.M. and 6:00 P.M. from May 5 through May 14.

But in the wake of Frappuccino Happy Hour, Starbucks didn’t see that the deal helped sales of other drinks in 2017. The promotion saw “a lower-than-expected lift in non-discounted Frappuccino beverages following Happy Hour,” Chief Financial Officer Scott Maw said on a July 2017 conference call, according to Reuters. And executives said last week that special offers — especially for Frappuccinos — are negatively impacting café sales in Japan.

So, as a result, it seems the chain is reportedly not having the Frappuccino happy hour this summer. “As part of our updated approach to products, events and offers, a different approach to summer offers will be planned that does not include Happy Hour,” the coffee chain said in a kit for its U.S. employees.


Happy Hour History

Starbucks has had the Frappuccino happy hour promotion for seven years. The coffee retailer first introduced the deal in May of 2010 to mark the introduction of the “However-You-Want-It” customizable Frappuccino.

It was envisioned as a location-based multichannel marketing campaign — those kinds of deals were all the rage back then, particularly with apps like Foursquare — to offer discounts to consumers who promoted the brand on social networks. The promo was highlighted across Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare — in addition to Starbucks’ own websites and in-store promotions.

Starbucks also promoted the happy hour on the now defunct Brightknite, an app that allowed users to check in through text message or mobile apps. Brightknite users could earn a badge from Starbucks if they checked in to a Starbucks store during the hours of the promotion.


Snapchat And Unicorns

The legacy of using social media marketing during happy hour continues to 2017, when Starbucks offered a special Snapchat feature.

During Frappuccino happy hour, customers could look for the Snapchat Snapcode in the company’s stores and scan a code to access custom lenses. To mix things up a bit, the chain introduced new lenses every two days through the length of the promotion.

After the company’s Unicorn Frappuccino in early 2017 drove significant traffic to the chain during its limited run, according to former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, the company’s current CEO said that, “we’re going to bring at least one entirely new drink into Happy Hour this year [2017] that is going to be as good as Unicorn or better.”

That drink ended up being the Midnight Mint Mocha Frappuccino, which was made with extra-dark cocoa, mint sugar crystals, and whipped cream. At its launch, Business Insider said it hadn’t yet had the Instagram success of the unicorn frap, but Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson was optimistic.

“Frappuccino Happy Hour is going to be a huge home run this year,” Johnson told BusinessInsider before the program ran in 2017. “And we’ve extended our hours this year on some other tactical things to really make sure that Happy Hour is set up for success.”


Future Frappuccino Promotions

To drive sales in the future, perhaps Starbucks will seek to discount certain drinks at off-peak hours besides its Frappuccino. In 2016, the chain debuted its Sunset Menu, which was a selection of summer desserts that customers could only order after 3:00 P.M. The menu included three flavors of granita — caramel espresso, youthberry white tea and strawberry-lemon limeade — in addition to two types of trifles.

Perhaps in the future, Starbucks could use this strategy to discount drinks that are easier to make than the Frappuccino — like its cold brew coffee, which has the potential to increase sales at its locations. When the coffee retailer first added its nitro cold brew to its menu in 2015, sales in the cafes that offered it jumped 25 percent, Forbes reported.



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