Starbucks in Italy? An Italian customer experience perspective

Italian Starbucks

Starbucks is coming to Italy in February. You might think this isn’t a big deal but for the Italian market it really is! Italian’s are precious about their coffee and their drinking habits differ greatly to those of the US and UK. The whole customer experience is different, which is why the opening of Starbucks in Italy is so controversial…

First of all, it’s interesting to know that Starbucks has an ancient bond with Italy; originally, Starbucks sold only coffee beans, but after a journey to Italy, the owner had the idea to recreate and export “caffetteria-style shops”.

Italian coffee drinking behaviour

From an Italian point of view (Yes, I’m Italian), coffee is not just a drink: it’s a ritual, a chit chat with the barista, it’s the best end after a good meal, it’s the perfect “good morning”, it’s a pleasant and quick break, but above all, it has to be short, black, bitter and served in a small ceramic cup (very hot).

Typically, an Italian will enter the coffee shop, simply ask for a coffee (which is an espresso – this is the standard drink), stand up at the counter, drink the coffee which takes just a few minutes, then leave.

You can see that both the drink and the behaviour differ a lot from the typical Starbucks experience.

In this scenario, will Italian consumers appreciate Starbucks Americano, Latte or Frapuccino? Will they buy coffee served in the famous cardboard cup? How will they reply to the renowned question “stay in or takeaway”?

In Naples, the south of Italy, the “coffee ritual” is even stronger than in the north. There’s a popular tradition called “caffè sospeso”, literally translated as “pending coffee”. It’s rooted into the Naples’ working-class culture, and basically consists of having an espresso but paying for two, leaving one on the counter, ready for the next costumer, as a symbol of good luck and an act of “charity”.

Will the Italian consumers pay for a “frappucino sospeso” or a “pending latte”? What will happen?


Image taken from “La banda degli onesti”. Totò, a famous Italian comedian and actor, drinking a coffee at the counter.

Italy’s La Stampa newspaper wrote: “We thought we had everything in Italy, but it turns out we lacked one thing: American coffee”.

Coffee for Italians is part of their culture, their behaviour, a national identity and habit; and Starbucks knows it. Even more important, Starbucks have had to really know Italian customers before making the decision to open a branch in Italy. It’s no coincidence that the first Italian Starbucks will open in Milan, the most international city in Italy, heart of Italian business, fashion and a highly multicultural centre.

What are the opportunities and potential barriers of having Starbucks in Italy?

The opportunities

  • The company announced that they will promote Starbucks as a place for business meetings as well as a cozy spot where to relax; an intimate coffee shop in the heart of the business area of Milan, where you can work or sip a coffee with friends.
  • Free WIFI will be the main attraction for Italian customers. There aren’t many places in Milan where you can find free and fast WIFI.
  • A hi-tech + coffee formula. Technology will be the key differentiator for Italian Starbucks. Along with free WIFI, customers will have access to a “Starbucks digital network” streaming movies and tv shows.

Potential barriers

  • Deeply rooted coffee culture. Italian customers have a strong bond with their habits, particularly when it comes to coffee and food.
  • There are thousands of coffee shops, bars and ‘caffetterias’ in Milan where you can enjoy a high quality espresso with a snack (biscuits or a pastry) and where you can simply read a newspaper with a good cappuccino.
  • Starbucks is expensive compared to the Italian coffee prices. In Italy, one espresso costs 1€ or even less.
  • For most of the time, “having a coffee” for Italians, means having a quick break, standing up at the counter. Particularly in the afternoon or after lunch. It is not the long sit down break that is common in other countries.
  • It is not common for Italian business consumers to sit in a coffee shop and work on the laptop or meet in a public space.


A traditional bar-caffetteria in Milan – Bar Zucca. People drinking a coffee at the counter.

The “Starbucks Italian situation” is a great example of the importance of how understanding customers is crucial in order to offer an efficient and successful product.

Moving into the Italian market is a huge risk for Starbucks, however by first opening in Milan, they will be able to take advantage of the large tourist market. It is the least risky option for them and a gentle step into the Italian market to test their acceptance of the longer coffee drinking customer experience.

If you need to understand or test in other markets, we can help. Get in touch with Keep It Usable >

Consumer behaviour insights: Smartphone vs tablet

With the increasing growth of tablet devices it’s important to understand how people are using these devices and what they’re using them for so we can design the best user experience for them which will convert higher.

In the past few years, mobile has been the primary focus for many businesses but as we’ve discussed previously, tablet use is growing phenomenally and it’s important to think about your tablet strategy right now.

To design anything for a smartphone or tablet it’s firstly incredibly important to understand the user(s) and their behaviour. Recent research by Flurry provides useful insights into how people are currently using these devices.

Smartpones vs Tablets Age Distribution

We can see from the above chart that there’s a clear tendency for tablet users to be older than smartphone users. In this case the difference averages 4 years. How old is your target market? If they’re older, in particular 55+ you definitely need to have a great tablet strategy in place.

Smartpones vs Tablets Usage by Hour

Interestingly, tablets are used much more than smartphones in the evenings. This provides evidence that tablets are being used as a fun, entertainment device within the home. This would indicate that tablets are more often used alongside, or instead of television. Let’s look further into how people use smartphones and tablets…

Smartphones vs Tablets Category Usage

It’s clear to see why tablets beat smartphones for evening usage; the primary thing people are doing in the evening is playing games. Consumers spend 71% more of their time playing games on tablets than on smartphones. With their larger screens, tablets provide the better gaming user experience.

Consumers spend more time using tablets for media and entertainment whereas smartphones are predominantly being used for communication and task-oriented activities.

Smartphones vs Tablets App Engagement

Finally, when we check the engagement metrics, tablets win hands down. This stands to reason when people are using tablets for higher media consumption like gaming. Smartphones still have the highest frequency of use, with people dipping into their mobile apps throughout the day. As mobiles are the device most people have with them all the time we would expect it to be the most frequently used.

If you’d like to know more about designing for mobile or tablet user experience, or if you’d like us to conduct research into your current user experience with your target market, get in touch using our contact form.

How customers REALLY shop using Smartphones

Mobile on the goGoing mobile has become a business imperative.

New research has unveiled the way customers really use devices and highlights the importance Smartphones play in researching and purchasing may have previously been underrated.

The research shows that context and the user’s aims play a major role in the choice of device. Convenience is also an important factor. Understandably, the Smartphone is the device users reach for time and time again, even if the experience is better on a PC or tablet – their mobile is always within reach.

 

Many times we turn to the screen that is closest

 

Context drives device choice

 

Smartphones have by far the highest usage for daily interactions with digital media. However, the interaction doesn’t end there. People now use different devices either at the same time or sequentially in what we call ‘multi-screening’.

 

There are two modes of multi screening

 

So how does this effect online shopping behaviour? It is not as straight forward as a simple path from browse to purchase. Consumers flick between devices, using them for different purposes, depending on the context they’re in as well as the time they have available.

We often move from one screen to another when shopping

 

Most consumers (by a large majority) actually begin their shopping experience on their smartphone. They then continue the same shopping experience on their PC/laptop.

 

Consumers take a multi-device path to purchase

 

Why would so many users not continue to purchase your product on their phone?

– Context. If they’re on the bus or on-the-go it may just be inconvenient.

– Time. When people are bored and want to kill some time they’ll start browsing using their phone. This ‘pecking’ behaviour is often done in short bursts.

– Content. Most mobile sites are slimmed down versions of the PC version. Users know this and may postpone their purchase until they can get to a PC to read more about the product and see larger images, read reviews, etc.

– Ease of purchasing. Many sites still have overly long and complex checkout processes, requiring registration and card payment details. These forms are easier and faster to complete on a PC with less frustrating input errors.

– Trust. Some people are still wary of purchasing through a mobile device.


Smartphones are the most frequent companion devices during simultaneous usage

 

The user’s purpose has a large part to play in which device they use. Think about your business. Does it drive users to interact with your website via a particular device? Looking at the following slide we can see that for activities such as searching for information and browsing the web, users prefer to reach for their Smartphone. However, if they are planning a holiday they are less likely to use their phone. If you think about, planning a holiday takes a fair amount of time and research. It is a more complex use case that involves looking at multiple sites, information search, reading reviews, sharing details with friends and looking at large images.

 

Smartphones are the most common starting place for online activities

In summary, smartphones are the backbone of our daily media interactions. They have the highest number of user interactions per day and serve as the most common starting point for activities across multiple screens.

Businesses need to consider:

– Adjusting conversion goals to account for the differences in end user goals when using each device.

– Tailoring the user experience to each device to account for the differences in how users shop.

Going mobile has become a business imperative.

Read the original research by Google