‘Alice in Wonderland meets Willy Wonka’ – Starbucks uses AR to launch Shanghai mega-branch

Starbucks is offering customers augmented reality tours of its new giant Shanghai coffee shop – its biggest store in the world.

The American giant opened its second Reserve Roastery – dubbed a coffee ‘megastore’ – today in the Chinese city, whereby visitors can take a glimpse inside the coffee cask using an AR tool.

Branch customers are encouraged to download the Roastery’s app when they enter the 30,000 square-feet venue.

Then, when they point their phones at the Roastery, users can watch an animated version of newly-roasted beans dropping into the cask and the process through which a bean becomes a cup of coffee.

“It’s like Alice in Wonderland meets Willy Wonka,” said Emily Chang, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Starbucks, China.

“It’s one thing to imagine a fully integrated in-store and digital experience, which brings together the impressive scale of the Shanghai Roastery with the highest quality small-lot coffee beans. It’s quite another to watch the AR experience get built, and come to life.”

She added: “We wanted to create a completely new brand experience for our customers. Because you know, coffee is already such a deeply sensorial experience, even before the first sip: from hearing the unmistakable sound of beans being freshly ground, to inhaling that rich aroma and sipping your perfect blend, brewed just right. We wanted to take that customer experience even further.”

Starbucks currently has 3,000 stores in China. Speaking to Bloomberg, the company’s chairman and founder Howard Schultz said: “It’s obvious to us that the holding power of China for Starbucks is going to be much more significant than the holding power of the US.”

Last month at Mumbrella360 Asia, Prophet’s senior partner and China expert Tom Doctoroff said Starbucks performed a “Houdini act of marketing” by becoming successful in a “land of tea-drinkers”.

He said: “The Chinese really do not like coffee that much. It’s a land of tea drinkers. They did this by conforming to the public consumption imperative and changed their business model. There, stores are larger, tables are longer: people go in there to proclaim their affiliation with a new generation of elite.

“Their coffee, which is emblazoned with the Starbucks label, is more expensive by 30 per cent than in the States, but their food, which has no branding, is cheaper. Things that you can consume in public are charged a price premium.”



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