The Starbucks train: opening new routes to consumer

Interesting to see the first Starbucks train leave the station in Switzerland on November 21st on a route running from Geneva Airport to St. Gallen, as reported here.Thanks to German Ramirez for the tip off. This is another good example of a brand growing the core by creating new routes to the consumer. Interesting that they chose to do this in the home country of NescafĂ© and Nespresso! 

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Here are some suggestions on how to think through new routes to the consumer.

1. Look at your consumers' daily "journey"

A common workshop exercise is to to look at a day or a week in the life of your consumer. Doing this you can then map out potential opportunities for your core product or service. When and where are they consuming direct or adjacent competitors? Or when would they like to have your product or service, but can't get it?

In the case of Starbucks this might have thrown up moments including train journies, sitting in traffic jams and drinking crappy coffee at work/school/college.

2. What the size of the prize?

The consumer journey exercise is likely to throw up plenty of opportunities to grow the core. The next step is to then size these, which may well be tricky. You may be creating new consumption opportunities, rather than stealing market share from existing brands. So, you may need to be creative in how you size the ideas. In the case of the Starbucks train you might need to spend time immersing yourself in this world, to measure customer traffic, how many people buy a coffee on a journey and how much they spend.

3. What's your ability to win?

Most marketers make a good go of sizing opportunities. The harder bit is looking at your ability to win. What capabilities does your business already have that can be used to go after a new opportunity? And where would you need to partner or out-source? Launching initiatives like the Starbucks train are complex and require lots of behind the scenes work creating relationships to make them happen. The bad news is that this is hard work. The good news is that for companies who do have the skill and stamina to succeed, they can create barriers to entry that make it hard for competition to easily copy the idea.

In conclusion, the Starbucks train is a good example of using distribution to drive growth of the core. It will be interesting to watch how it works, and see if its a one-off, or an opportunity that is big enough and feasible enough for Starbucks to expand it.