Starbucks Digital Network Points The Way

21 Oct

Starbucks_ss1Starting this week the wired set is getting far more than free WiFi at Starbucks, and just about every business should be paying attention.

It’s called the Starbucks Digital Network and it started rolling out Wednesday. The network is actually a joint effort with Yahoo! which knows a thing or two about aggregating content.

The first sign that something has changed will come when you sign on to AT&T Wi-Fi at any Starbucks. It’s been free for awhile, but now logging onto the network will bring up a page of digital goodness. You’ll get a choice of content, some drawn from common sources like the The New York Times and the Weather Channel. But there’s also a lot of stuff you’d typically have to pay for, like full access to the Wall Street Journal, music and video downloads and free ebooks (and not just from authors you’ve never hear of before).

There’s also a wide range of content from more niche sources, like Runners World, and the Career Coach. And there’s an option to check in on Foursquare, just in case you want friends to come interrupt your reading time.

It didn’t take a lot of research to understand how this might appeal to Starbucks customers, just spend a moment looking at what people are doing while sipping their latte. But there is a real genius to this new offering.

For several years Starbucks has been a leading arbiter of music with its CD sales. Ask any artist what it means to get their disc on the counter at Starbucks. Now it has created a digital storefront that can only be accessed while in the bricks and motar locations. Content providers looking for quick access to a highly desirable audience will be beating a path to get on one of the six channels.

So now take a look around your business. What would your customers trust you to make available to them? Recommendations on mobile apps? Maybe independent films or new music? The digital channel takes so much of the cost out of the equation that just about any business can build a case to broker content to its customers. If your success is tied to time spent inside your shop then the need is even clearer.

Others have stepped tentatively into this space before, but Starbucks just delivered a compelling example of why value added digital content is worth its weight in gold.

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