Starbucks today launched a limited iOS beta test for a new artificial intelligence assistant called "My Starbucks barista," which will let customers order their favorite menu items by speaking with a virtual barista within a new messaging interface in the company's mobile app (via TechCrunch).
If they choose to, users can also opt to simply type their order to Starbucks, similar to chatbots that have become popular in apps like Facebook Messenger. My Starbucks barista will ask to confirm the pick-up location for the order and can help customers through the payment process as well, leaving them only needing to pass by their local Starbucks and pick up their order when it's ready.
“The Starbucks experience is built on the personal connection between our barista and customer, so everything we do in our digital ecosystem must reflect that sensibility,” said Gerri Martin-Flickinger, chief technology officer for Starbucks, in a statement. “Our team is focused on making sure that Starbucks voice ordering within our app is truly personal and equally important was finding the right partner in Amazon to test and learn from this new capability.”
Additionally, a new "Starbucks Reorder Skill" is being implemented for Amazon's Alexa devices, giving users the chance to simply say, "Alexa, order my Starbucks" to reorder their usual items. The process requires the Starbucks app to be installed, with an account already in place that includes a designated favorite order.
The Starbucks app has increased in popularity over the years thanks to its ability to let customers place orders online and arrive in the store to receive their drinks and food at the pick-up counter. The practice has become so popular in some locations, however, that customers have been known to leave when faced with long wait times. To fix the problem, Starbucks has begun hiring online order-only baristas, as well as testing out text notifications that alert customers when to arrive at the store.
The beta test is currently beginning, but is limited to a small set of 1,000 iOS users in the U.S., with "a phased rollout" estimated to begin on a larger scale this summer. An update to the Android app is said to come later in 2017.