The feature utilizes artificial intelligence to process the incoming orders through a new messaging interface in the Starbucks app. Here, customers can also interact with the virtual assistant by messaging their order, chatbot-style. The assistant can confirm which location you want to order from, and help to process the payment, as well.
Starbucks says that the new assistant will initially only be available to one thousand customers using iOS devices nationwide during a limited beta test, with a phased rollout planned through summer 2017. The Android version will be available later in the year.
The launches come at a time when voice computing is on the rise. A recent forecast from VoiceLabs estimates that 24.5 million voice-first devices will ship in 2017, with platforms like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home leading the way. Customers are also getting more comfortable speaking to assistants on their mobile devices, like Siri, Cortana, and Google Assistant, as a means of accessing information or performing tasks.
It makes sense then, that Starbucks would join this trend with efforts of its own. Its app has already led the market in terms of advancing technologies like mobile payments and order-ahead, so being among the first in its space to debut a voice assistant is the next logical step.
“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. “Our team is focused on making sure that Starbucks voice ordering within our app is truly personal.”