The process of making a cup of coffee is about as simple as a task gets. That’s not to say producing the perfect crema doesn’t have its fair share of innovation, science and technique, but ultimately it’s a repeatable, mechanistic process. It’s a market which from the last available research, which was for 2012, grew at 7.5% to be worth £5.8Bn annually. With coffee seen as a convenience purchase by most consumers, location is key and therefore the number of coffee shops will likely continue to increase.
It’s therefore not surprising that it’s an increasingly crowded market with innovation and differentiation being key, whilst not losing a grip on the core proposition, good coffee. The top 5 differentiators for consumers include: loyalty cards; wifi; magazines/newspapers; re-usable cup discount; and express tills. When you look at what customers ascribe value to there’s a tension between convenience/speed of service, and added extras.
The art therefore, from an innovation approach, is to find ways to simplify the end to end process whilst not reducing the quality of the coffee, but including as many value adds such as loyalty cards. Each chain has their own approach, however, taking two approaches it’s possible to see the potential impact:
Coffee shop A
1) enter the shop
2) open app and check-in
3) find no 3G connection so log on to wifi
4) check-in on app
5) Order coffee
7) Barista checks that I’m the order that has appeared on their screen
8) Collect coffee
Coffee shop B
1) enter the shop
2) open app
3) Order coffee
4) Pay (using app if you want the loyalty rewards)
5) Collect coffee
Whilst there is little difference in terms of the end to end time in the process, the effect in terms of the number of interactions that the customer has to make and therefore slickness is considerabe. Both use technology in equal measure, albeit in different ways and to slightly different ends. In addition, coffee shop B has understood that the there are elements of the process that can be semi-automated in order to provide consistency of product without diminishing the customer experience.
Interestingly coffee shop A has innovated to deploy technology in a way that endeavours to make it a part of the experience, giving a hi-tech feel, and a perpetion differential in the eyes of the consumer. In reality, it has created a more complex customer process and ultimately one that requires more staff training and management. The flipside is that it captures my buying preferences (although as per my earlier article not my view of the customer experience).
Where am I going with this article? Well it’s simple, sometimes innovation is about simplicity and taking things away rather than adding. Sometimes we have to stop doing things to be able to do new things. As humans we have a tendency to act like the ‘busy fool’ thinking that we can keep adding more and more. Like smart leaders, who are great at delegation and prioritisation, businesses have to work out what they need to stop doing or outsource. Our approach to innovation needs to be as much about understanding revised prioritisation of what we already do as the new things that we need to add to the list. As we enter a new year it’s a great time to consider whether we have the balance right both as individuals and businesses.