Retail in a Changing World – the Starbucks Experience

Starbucks pic

John B. Richards has engaged with various companies where he significantly contributed to their growth and success. At Starbucks Coffee Company, John B. Richards was president of retail in North America then promoted to president of North American operations. He presided over stunning sales growth from $400 million to $2.5 billion on the back of rapid store expansion, which peaked with a new store opening every 18 hours.

Sharing his Starbucks experience, Mr. Richards notes that retail has been coming under threat from technology, namely in the form of the Internet and e-commerce. Yet Starbucks retails a very traditional product, coffee, and has managed to grow and prosper. The company focuses on several service principals, including choosing locations that are both convenient and high traffic, a consideration often overlooked by entrepreneurs.

The retail beverage company also focuses on transaction efficiency and speed as time has become a more precious commodity. The Starbucks Card cut initial transaction time, as swiping it was quicker than making purchases with cash.

Lastly, the company embraced technology, focusing on leveraging the Internet to improve service and create brand loyalty. It introduced online ordering and launched a loyalty program to reward patronage. Thus, in a technology dominated world, there can still be success in retail by focusing primarily on service principles.

The Four Seasons Model of Customer Service

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Four Seasons Model

Drawing upon extensive experience in the retail and service industries, John B. Richards provides strategic direction that leads to business expansion. For 10 years, John B. Richards served as Executive Vice President of Four Seasons Hotels, helping build the company from eight to 42 properties during his tenure.

Part of the reason for the global success of Four Seasons is its service culture, which has four elements:

1. Who we are. Four Seasons defines itself as a leading entity in the hospitality industry that focuses on the quality of its service and locations. In doing so, the company satisfies the needs of its customers and positions itself as a leading hospitality brand.

2. What we believe. A belief that the company’s people are its most important asset is critical at Four Seasons. All employees have a sense of pride in everything they do, and they carry themselves with dignity as they work together to achieve the company’s larger aims.

3. How We Succeed. At Four Seasons, success is defined as achieving a reasonable profit while providing benefits to guests, employees, and the hotel owners.

4. How we behave. Operating on the idea of “do unto others as you have would have them do unto you,” Four Seasons treats guests, employees, and business partners with respect and a professional attitude.

What to Include in a Loyalty Program

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Loyalty Program

A multi-industry executive with experience across the United States, John B. Richards is the former chief executive officer of the Joint Corp., a chiropractic network headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona. At several points in his career, John B. Richards helped drive business growth and brand loyalty via loyalty programs.

In marketing circles, loyalty programs are one of the most commonly used strategies for building a regular customer base and attracting new customers. Customers join loyalty programs because they want to establish a relationship with the company in question, so long as there is additional value beyond a single transaction. As such, loyalty programs must provide access to new products and service offerings. Loyalty programs may also provide incentives for members to engage with new offerings.

Convenience also plays an important role in customer loyalty programs. Companies can improve convenience by offering services such as online payment and express pickup, which saves customers time and creates an overall positive experience.

Building a Brand is Essential

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Building a Brand

The former president of North American operations at Starbucks Coffee, John B. Richards has been instrumental in structuring and scaling up many organizations at which he has been employed. Some of his accomplishments include building brands through service, such as with Four Seasons Hotels. During John B. Richards’ tenure as CMO and EVP of operations, the hotel’s portfolio was extended from eight to 42 hotels and from three to 22 countries. With this expansion, the brand-awareness of the hotel group rose from 20 to 80 percent, surpassing that of Ritz-Carlton as a premier luxury chain.

Building a brand involves a process of creating awareness through adopting strategies that boost the value of the company to consumers. Branding is establishing the identity of a product. It could be the name, icon, design, or a combination of these that separates the product from others like it. Hence, the brand is the symbol of the product or the company, and is an integral part of business development.

The brand is also about the features or services that make people choose one company over another. This is determined by the impression that the company makes on customers. One study claims that about 60 percent of customers generally choose to pay more for a better experience, even in a negative economy. Therefore, developing a good strategy for branding is one of the most important decisions in any business.