Appearing at WIRED’s Business Conference Disruptive by Design today, Howard Schultz talked with WIRED’s Chris Anderson about “Evolving the Starbucks Experience in an Ever-changing World.” Schultz recounted the challenges of leading the Starbucks transformation following his return to the company as CEO in 2008. With a focus on lessons learned, Schultz’s talk included how the company sought to embrace social and digital media and continues to look for new ways to bridge the third place coffeehouse experience with the digital world. As part of this commitment, Schultz recognized customers’ desire for a better in store Wi-Fi experience and announced that on July 1, Starbucks will turn on one-click, free Wi-Fi through AT&T in all U.S. company operated stores.
Building on the Wi-Fi update, Schultz also revealed plans for a new online customer experience called the Starbucks Digital Network, in partnership with Yahoo!, which will debut later this fall. This online experience – available only in U.S. company operated Starbucks stores – will be unique in its content offerings, allowing customers free unrestricted access to various paid sites and services such as wsj.com, exclusive content and previews, free downloads, local community news and activities, on their laptops, tablets or smart phones.
Driven by Digital Ventures, a new business unit within Starbucks led by CIO and General Manager, Digital Ventures, Stephen Gillett, the Starbucks Digital Network in partnership with Yahoo! opens up a uniquely valuable customer experience, while at the same time appeals to leading online content providers and provides a new channel for customer engagement. Launch content providers will include, among others, iTunes, The New York Times, Patch, USA TODAY, The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo! and ZAGAT.