My Starbucks Idea: Product Development Through Social Media

bmfwong    October 19, 2015


Organization Name: Starbucks

Industry: Coffee Shop

Web Reference: Forbes, Starbucks, My Starbucks Idea

Starbucks is one of the most recognizable coffeehouse in the world. Their success has been attributed to their ability to stay consistent with their product offerings, storefront ambiance, and having a menu option that suits many people’s taste buds. However, Starbucks continues to push their competitive advantage over other national coffeehouses by improving the customer experience through their use of social media. Their Facebook page boasts over 36 million followers, while their  Twitter and Instagram have over 6.1 million and 10.2 million followers respectively. There’s no doubt that Starbucks’ social media reach is wide, however, what really helps them innovate and improve their products is their crowdsourcing platform, My Starbucks Idea.



The platform encourages customers to submit ideas for better products, ways to improve the customer experience, and allows customers to provide feedback on what they want. My Starbucks idea replaces the need for lengthy and costly focus groups to leverage ideas for product development. Instead, it allows customers to provide immediate feedback where users of the platform post comments on improvements they wish to see and have other users vote on them.

Anyone can sign up to the website and submit their own ideas or vote and comment on ideas submitted by other people. This virtual platform is online community dedicated to sharing and discussing ideas revolving around Starbucks and its ideas are driven by the community.



Here are some of the ideas that have had an influence through My Starbucks Idea over the last several years it has been out:

  • Splash sticks (the green stick inserted into the opening of the lid) have kept clothes cleaner for the past five years;
  • More than 3 million mobile payment transactions occur per week in U.S. Starbucks stores, including many in drive-thru locations;
  • Consumers helped introduce new flavors such as Mocha Coconut Frappuccino Blended Beverages, Hazelnut Macchiato and Starbucks VIA Pumpkin Spice Flavored Coffee; and
  • More than 5.8 million cake pops are sold each year, thanks to customers sharing ideas for smaller-sized treats.

And while this is only a handful of the innovations that customers submitted and that Starbucks have implemented,  My Starbucks Idea page for ideas that have launched sits at 41 pages of posts from customers.


“It’s about relationships, not marketing”

~Matthew Guiste, Director of Global Social Media of Starbucks

One of the reasons why My Starbucks Idea has been so successful is because it helps build the relationship that Starbucks has with their customers. Customers that have their ideas implemented are credited on the website (although no monetary reward is given under the terms and conditions). This provides a sense of ownership and validation that customers receive for coming up with new ideas for Starbucks to use. Customers also value the engagement that Starbucks gives, allowing for direct communication to occur on the platform.

“The equity of the brand is defined by the quality of the coffee, but most importantly the relationship that the barista has with the customer, and whether or not the customer feels valued, appreciated and respected and that’s how the company was built.”

Howard Schultz, Chairman and CEO of Starbucks

Lessons for Others

Instead of using traditional marketing methods like focus groups and surveys for feedback which can have a high cost and can be slow, Starbucks has designed a way to not only gather information from their customers for free, but has found a way to use crowdsourcing as a means to innovate new ideas and implement ideas that customers want. This also helps cut down the time needed to implement improvements directly in their stores.

What companies can learn from Starbucks is that crowdsourcing ideas directly from customers and asking what they want can lead to stronger sales, stronger relationships with customers, and a better customer experience for their customers.

Submitted By: Benjamin Wong, SMBP, University of Waterloo

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