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Recommendation for Starbucks Coffee Company Essay


The purpose of this report is to conduct market analysis and recommend appropriate marketing strategies for Starbucks Coffee.

In the report, we will first look into Starbucks’s goal, its product and markets. Then we will look into the key actions and decisions that lead to the success of the company. After that, we will discuss the issues that Starbucks is facing in this competitive global market. For each strategic issue, appropriate marketing recommendations for the company are made respectively.


Starbucks Coffee starts in 1971 with a single store in Seattle’s Pike Place Market. Today, they are privileged to welcome nearly 35 million customers on a weekly basis, in more than 12,000 stores around the world. (www.starbucks.com)

Starbucks’s goal is to become the leading retailer and brand of coffee in each of its target markets by selling the finest quality coffee and related products and by providing each customer a unique “Starbucks Experience”. “Starbucks Experience” is a third place after home and work with superior customer service, clean and well maintained retail stores which reflect the personalities of the communities in which they operate. Starbucks strategy for expanding its retail business is to increase its market share mainly by opening additional stores in existing markets and to open stores in new markets. In support of this strategy, Starbucks opened 1,040 new company operated stores in fiscal 2006. (www.starbucks.com)

During fiscal 2006, Starbucks Coffee Company operated retail stores accounted for 85% of total net revenues. (Starbucks Annual Report 2006) In addition to company operated stores, Starbucks works with certain carefully chosen business to operate licensed stores in various places. Its strategy is to reach customers where they work, travel, shop and dine by establishing relationship with people that share the Company’s values and commitment to quality. These relationships take various forms, including licensing arrangements, foodservice accounts and other initiatives related to the Company’s business. Licensed and Foodservice stores can be found on college campuses. Customers can enjoy their Starbucks in select supermarkets, hotels and military bases throughout foodservice venues around the world. During fiscal 2006, specialty revenues accounted for 15% of total net revenues. (Starbucks Annual Report 2006)

Starbucks also recently has strategically sold coffee and tea products through other channels such as supermarkets, or non-traditional retail channels such as United Airlines, Marriott International, Holland-American Cruise Line, and Department Stores.


To achieving growth and making profits, Starbucks started to go international since 1996. International connections can build a strong foreign presence which helps to increase brand recognition and also increase the domestic business. The more stores Starbucks has around the world, the more loyalty and familiarity can be built among its existing and potential customers.

The following are the macro environmental variables which are likely to impact Starbucks when going international:-


Starbucks has carefully analyzed various strategies for the placement of its stores. They have developed cost-saving options for these stores to meet the need to adapt to each geographic region. They also need to consider the tastes and preferences of each area. For example, customers in New Orleans prefer their bagels toasted and those in Atlanta require more seating for a “social” coffee break.


Starbucks begin in US, which is the sector we are examining for demographics. As of July 2005, the population of the U.S. was estimated at 295,734,134 (CIA World Factbook). Population facts are important to Starbucks because they can give Starbucks valuable statistics, such as US population base per Starbucks store. People ages 15-64 make up the largest percentage of the population (67%), and therefore will have greater control of the market than any other sector (CIA World Factbook). This implies that the most important target market for Starbucks are people within this age group. The two largest ethnic groups in the U.S. are white 81.7%, black 12.9% and Asian 4.2%. (CIA World Factbook) The ethnic background is important to a company because it influences tastes, trends, perceptions, values and beliefs of an individual.


Estimated GDP in 2004 was $11.75 trillion. GDP real growth rate was 4.4% (CIA World Factbook). The growth rate of GDP suggests that the economy is growing, and therefore there is opportunity for Starbucks to expand business. A very large per capita purchasing power parity of $40,100 suggests that Americans have the opportunity to buy specialty coffee drinks from an expensive, quality-intensive organization such as Starbucks (CIA World Factbook).


Strategic issues that will challenge Starbucks in the future are related to their tight control and lack of flexibility, organizational structure, and diversification. First, Starbucks is vertically integrated as they buy and roast the beans, ship them to the stores, produce, and sell the coffee. They may face difficulties or have to raise the price of their coffee if the cost of raw beans increases, or there is a decrease in available labor.

The second issue is that they are centralized around controlling all steps of the distribution process, entering into joint ventures which may lead to quality control issues in locations.

Another issue is the ability for growth. Starbucks will continue to grow in their core business, but the more they spread into international and joint ventures they will face increased quality control problems.


The Los Angeles city council was considering an ordinance that would require licensing of coffeehouses open past midnight. This demonstrates how government exertion can prove unprofitable for the business. Furthermore, anti-trust laws might prevent Starbucks from future expansions, since the company is not owned locally as with other franchisers. Other human-rights activists or organizations can potentially voice their concerns about the business’s process, such as how the leaflets concerning under-paid Guatemalan eventually forces Starbucks to establish several codes for treatments of its foreign subcontractors.


Nationalism and cultural differences may result in recurrent problems on resource availability, product quality consistency and costs, which effect adversely to foreign operations. For instance, due to its population and potential of growth, China represents a grate opportunity of market. In the past, coffee was considered as a Western bourgeois commodity in China and people are used to have tea instead. Coffee doesn’t go well with Chinese food and culture as well. Until recently, the market research shows the country’s coffee drinking has doubled in the past four years. (www.marketwatch.com/news) Nevertheless, it still only amounts to about one cup per person per annum and the brand typically is instant Nescafe.

Starbucks strives to create a unique culture with a passionate interest in changing a simple commodity into an addictive gourmet delicacy and meet individual market wants and needs without compromising Starbucks’s brand image and culture of the company.


Starbucks’s competence in the style of stores and creative coffee drinks has propelled it to the front among coffee retailers. Starbucks is not just stands for a cup of fresh and nice coffee. Starbucks is about the passion for the soul of people, quality product, excellent customer service and the experience and understanding of the culture of coffee. In the following paragraphs, we are going to analysis the 4Ps (i.e. Product, Price, Place and Promotion) of Starbucks, followed by appropriate marketing strategic recommendations.


Premium Product Strategy

Starbucks has been committed to sourcing the highest quality coffees around the world. It only purchases coffees that have been grown and processed by suppliers who meet strict environmental, social, economic, and quality standards. Starbucks is well-known for its exceptionally high quality coffees, care in selection, and expertise in roast (www.starbucks.com).

Broad Product Differentiation

Depending upon competence and innovation, Starbucks establishes its long lasting and profitable competitive advantages by broadly differentiating its coffee and coffee related products.

Brand Image

Starbucks combines its merchandizing strategy with its marketing programs to create and reinforce a distinctive brand image for its coffees. The company’s brand image strategy is reflected in its product mix, producing, and sales and educational materials. What Starbucks stands for is a good cup of fresh coffee and the recognized brand worldwide.


It is undeniable that Starbucks has a competitive advantage when it comes to quality, especially when compared to other generic coffee commodity. However, in terms of convenience, despite arduous efforts to establish Starbucks at every corner, there are still more supermarkets than there are Starbucks bars. Realizing the potential for this convenience sector of the coffee market, Starbucks should actively pursuing substitutes that compete in these areas, for example a pre-packaged drinks or offer tea in its shops as a preemptive measure to fight off any teahouse looking to steal away the coffee drinkers.

Sometime Asia can be mistakenly seen as one culture by outsiders. It can be true somehow, yet to be successful in the region. The countries in Asia are totally different when it comes to culture, value, religion, tastes etc. Many Asians prefer for tea especially in China, a county of devoted tea drinkers who do not take readily to the taste of coffee. Starbucks should set different strategies and approaches for each market to make Starbucks’s experience to be part of the culture.

To meet local tastes or preferences, Starbucks can act local, for example, by introducing alcoholic beverage fro special happy hour set in some countries or region. Traditionally Korea and China are huge alcohol consuming culture as well as coffee. High margin of beer, wine or cocktail may help Strarbucks match local tastes and preferences, most importantly, can boost its revenue.


Site Selection

Starbucks stores are normally gathered in high-traffic, high visibility locations. It takes more than just location to be successful. Attracting customers to Starbucks happens by providing high quality coffee and creating inviting, comfortable places that are conveniently located. These places should be those that add to the spirit of each community.

Store Expansion

Starbucks expands its stores by entering new markets wherever the opportunity exists to become the leading specialty coffee retailer. By the year 2006, its current location totals 12,440 worldwide (www.starbucks.com)


From past experiences, customer loyalties cannot be stretched or transferred to a new product or channel in a short time. Starbucks should expect a gradually change on its customers’ purchasing power and habits. Eventually, the Internet may reconfigure how customers think of mass-market brands. But that shift will take years to unfold and company leaders need to manager the transition with great skills. Therefore, Starbucks needs to make some change on its current e-commerce strategy.

First, it may add more value to its value chain by expending its website function as a communication tool to link its stakeholders such as customers, suppliers, management and employees. Second, consolidate the public relation function. Starbucks.com is not only a window for online business, but also a window for building the company’s image and reputation. Third, keep online business on core products but maintain the products diversification as a long-term strategy, and implement it by gradually introducing new products one at a time. Last, to strategic ally with .com companies to expend its selling channels.

Starbucks can setup online chat room to facilitate communication among its stakeholders. It may also create free email accounts to further spread its fame and consolidate customers’ loyalty. In addition, it can gradually add indirect coffee related products into its online sales collection, such as coffee machine. It may also want to introduce some online coffee tour package to provide cheap travel tours or hotel accommodation. In order to increase sales, Starbucks may also ally with .com companies to promote its products. For example, to sign a sell contract with yahoo.com to carry Starbucks’ products.


Starbucks doesn’t have much conventional advertising because it found that there is too much competition for consumers’ attention in TV, radio and print media. Starbucks usually picks one or two charities or events that reach the community it serves. This will inspire people inside and outside the company and reinforce the company’s value and image.

Starbucks integrates its corporate culture with its surroundings. At all levels of the Company, Starbucks partners strive to be good neighbors and active contributors in the communities where they live and work. It’s part of the Starbucks culture. It is the goal of Starbucks to involve partners as decision-makers, volunteers, and leaders in the initiatives they support.


To be a real global company, Starbucks can participate in or support local events, helping education in developing countries or community activities so that it can enhance its public relationship with those international markets. In most Asian markets, once it is perceived as a true partner or caretaker, its growth strategy might work just as in US market.


Best value offering

By pricing its coffee competitively with the prevailing high-end coffee prices, Starbucks represents an attractive combination of price, features, high quality, good service and other attributes customers find attractive.


The fact that Starbucks prides itself in customer service, providing the “Starbucks experience” for the customer, means that the business is mainly customer-oriented, and thus translates to a strong customer’s power. Nonetheless, the greater the importance of the product’s quality or services to the customers, as is the case with coffees, there is little extent to the buyers’ price sensitivity. This indicates that as long as Starbucks maintains quality products and superb customer-service, individual consumers are unlikely to be able to exert their buying powers. Therefore, it’s good for Starbucks to maintain its prevailing high-end coffee prices.


It is no doubt that Starbucks is one of the most successful company in the world. They used a simply strategy, “connecting links between treating employees with dignity and respect and producing a good product and services.” That was the major factors that differentiate Starbucks from others and bring the successful to Starbucks.

The future of Starbucks, which is in a fast-growth phase, is apparently to be successful and promising. However, those keys of success may not be applicable to tomorrow’s environment and in global market. Defending and growing a competitive position requires firmly built strategies based on its unique, valuable and leading capabilities and resources, rather than the products and services themselves, proactively responding to ever changing internal and eternal environment to keep fending off its competitors. Although currently there are no formidable competitors for Starbucks leadership in both international and domestic markets, it should not take it for granted for good. Tomorrow’s destiny of Starbucks should depend on its strategic capability to preserve and sustain its strengths, offset weaknesses, avoid threats and capitalize on opportunities. If Starbucks would correctly identify and deal with the issues under current and near future circumstances, it could remain excited about further growth and continues to be prosperous.

List of References


http://geography.about.com/library/cia/blcusa.htm (CIA World Factbook)


Sandhusen, Richard, 1994, Global Marketing, Hauppauge, New York.

Cateora, Philip R., 1996, International Marketing, Irwin, Chicago.

Peter J. Buckley, Fred Burton and Hafiz Mirza, 1998, The Strategy and organization of international business, Macmillan Press, New York.

Masaaki Kotabe, Kristiaan Helsen, 1998, Global marketing management, John Wiley, New York.

Bryan Lowes, Christopher Pass and Stuart Sanderson, 1994, Companies and markets, Oxford, UK.

Starbucks Annual Report 2006 (2006). Starbucks Annual Report. Seattle,WA., Starbucks Coffee Company.

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