Video: Starbucks mobile app adds AI Barista for voice ordering
The chat-bot invasion has officially reached Starbucks. The coffee and tea purveyor announced the beta launch of the My Starbucks barista, an AI-based virtual assistant that lets customers place their orders via voice command or messaging interface. Starbucks is also launching a skill for the Amazon Alexa platform that will let customers order via voice command from any Alexa-powered device.
The My Starbucks barista, which was first teased in December during Starbucks' investor day, is technically an extension of Starbucks Mobile Order & Pay, which in itself is a feature within the Starbucks mobile app.
Starbucks has always been a digital innovation machine compared to other retail and beverage brands, but the company's tech efforts have focused increasingly on concepts like AI since former Adobe CIO Gerri Martin-Flickinger took over as Starbucks' chief technology officer in late 2015. Martin-Flickinger has said she planned to spearhead new technologies that boost personal engagements digitally and anticipate customer behaviors.
These efforts are already in motion and lumped into what Starbucks refers to internally as its "digital flywheel," a concept representing the company's ecosystem of digital propositions for the customer. Starbucks said its digital flywheel initiatives now account for 38 percent of the company's North American revenues.
Meanwhile, the number of Starbucks reward members increased to 12 million in 2016, with roughly one out of three mobile paying customers using Mobile Order & Pay -- the key enabler of the new virtual barista feature.
Starbucks said around 1,000 customers will have access to the My Starbucks barista beta, with plans for a continued phased rollout through this coming summer. The beta is only for the Starbucks app on iOS, although an Android version is expected later this year.