Starbucks’ App Now Includes a Voice-Activated Ordering Bot

Mobile already makes up 27% of U.S. sales

Starbucks lovers can speak into their phone to place their order.
Starbucks

A bot will now serve you Starbucks coffee. After quietly announcing that the brand was working on an AI-powered voice assistant in December, 1,000 customers are now testing Starbucks’ “barista bot.”

The feature is built into Starbucks’ mobile payment app and lets folks place their orders by speaking into a phone speaker. The app is linked to a credit card or gift card, and the bot puts together an order and sends a request to a nearby store where consumers can bypass a line and pick it up. Over time, the app uses AI to learn consumers’ preferences to push out relevant offers and content.

Starbucks is initially testing voice ordering with 1,000 iPhone app users, with plans to roll out more broadly this summer and on Android phones this year.

In addition to the new app feature, Starbucks also launched a branded “skill” for Amazon Echo that uses the same technology to allow consumers to buy drinks and food items by talking to the Echo. Once someone enables the skill, consumers say, “Alexa, order my Starbucks” to place an order that they can pick up a few minutes later at a nearby store.

Starbucks has long been ahead of the game with mobile payments since launching its coffee-ordering app in 2009. The app now has 13 million loyalty-program members and makes up 27 percent of sales in the U.S. while 7 percent of people use the order-ahead feature to skip stores’ lines and pay ahead.

“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,” said Starbucks’ chief technology officerGerri Martin-Flickinger. “These initial releases are easy to use providing a direct benefit to customers within their daily routine and we are confident that this is the right next step in creating convenient moments to complement our more immersive formats. We expect to learn a lot from both of these experiences and to evolve them over time.”