retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

GeekWire has a story about Starbucks plans to use artificial intelligence to take the customer experience in its stores to the next level.

"Imagine," the story says, "pulling into a Starbucks drive-thru and seeing not just your drink order but your name on the screen - along with the suggestions of what foods you might like with your drink, automatically generated by the weather, your buying history, and the choices that others with similar preferences have made ... Coming soon to a Starbucks drive-through near you — and to your smartwatch, and possibly to each store’s cash register — are serving suggestions generated by artificial intelligence."

The goal is to create "a cloud-based 'digital flywheel' intended to provide the same personalized customer experience worldwide."

These new initiatives come, GeekWire writes, "as longtime technology executive Kevin Johnson prepares to take over as Starbucks CEO from Howard Schultz next year, giving the company more tech experience at the top."

I just think this kind of stuff is totally cool ... and illustrative of the degree to which I think we're going to see AI playing a role in modern retailing.

But there is one thing that people and companies have to think about.

Artificial intelligence is designed to replicate and improve upon actual human intelligence. This means that you don't necessarily need computers to provide this kind of customer service. I've been in stores over the years where great employees have been able to provide this kind of intuitive and inquisitive service because they actually care, and because they are working in cultures that encourage caring.

So the Starbucks stuff is great. But it isn't the only way to achieve great.

To me, that's the Eye-Opener.
KC's View: