Londoners can now buy their Starbucks before entering the store

Starbucks has updated its U.K. app so coffee lovers can order and pay for their drinks before they enter the store, rolling out in 150 London shops in a trial phase.

Mobile Order and Pay is available in 7,000 of the chain’s outlets in the U.S. since launching in 2014. According to the company, 9 million mobile transactions are made each week in U.S. Starbucks stores, with mobile payments accounting for 20 percent of them.

The U.S. test phase has meant a time savings of 10 to 15 minutes for users who can order and pay for their drinks before entering the store, skipping the queue.

People in a rush choose the particular nearby chain they want to pick up their coffee. They are then served an expected time for when their order is ready, based on their proximity to the store, how they get there and how busy the baristas are.

The feature particularly appeals to commuters, parents with young children who are reluctant to stand in line, as well as people with speech and hearing impediments.

iPhone 6s MOP Order 2 copy
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It’s completely transformative,” said Ian Cranner, Starbucks’ vp of marketing in EMEA. “It misses all the less rewarding parts of the experience. No one else is doing this.”

Other fast-food chains have tested the concept. In France, McDonald’s teamed up with PayPal in 2012 to let customers pay and order their food via its app, which makes Starbucks look a little late to the party.

Starbucks’ time-saving solution appears more robust, and they have the confidence to continue the rollout in other markets outside of the U.S., the next being Canada.

Shortening the queue could depress sales if people choose not to purchase something additional while they wait, though. Cranner isn’t worried, though. He said the company is “focused on making the experience so good that people want to come back tomorrow, rather than have things popping up on the screen,” trying to upsell them another item. And anyway, this is an update for the super users, harried commuters and parents of young children.

Starbucks has a record of launching digital products aimed at eliminating friction from payments. Its My Rewards card launched in 2012 and remained one of the first and most widely used digital payments options, Mobile Order and Pay being the evolution of this.

It also brought Wi-Fi to the masses in 2011, making it one of the first brands to do so in its stores. This year it’s working towards increasing Wi-Fi speed in its London stores.

Fast and reliable Wi-Fi isn’t in as much demand as it once was, so this year it introduced wireless charging systems in 10 London stores, as dying batteries are the next inconvenience Starbucks is keen to combat.

Thinking of new ways to make life easier for customers is the company’s “epicenter,” Cranner said.

In this way, Starbucks sees its stores as the “third space”  — the environment that’s not your home or your place of work, but the next place where you spend your time. Cranner pointed out the digital experience is a fundamental extension and supplement to this. “If Starbucks is the third space, the digital experience is the fourth space.”

Photos courtesy of Starbucks.

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