Starbucks Drive-Thrus Roll Out Largest Installation of QSR Outdoor Displays

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The future is NOW. The largest installation of large-format QSR outdoor digital displays is being rolled out at all Starbucks drive-thru locations in the U.S. The 46-inch LCD screens create camera-to-camera interaction similar to FaceTime, which results in an improved barista/customer connection.

Nominating Company: GDS, Inc., Rockford, Illinois
Venue: Starbucks Corporation, South Seattle, Washington
Project: QSR Drive-Thru LCD Screen
Category: Food & Beverage

BACKGROUND
The majority of QSR sales are derived from the drive-thru lane, and Starbucks recognized they were losing the barista/customer rapport for all customers that decided to order from their car. The drive-thru’s loyal devotees want their coffee without exiting their car. So the challenge to Starbucks was to find a way to bring the barista to the customer’s car through the use of digital technology.

In addition to video of the barista, the screens will show confirmation of the customer’s order in real time so consumers will be able to visually check order accuracy. The leading-edge displays are part of a technology drive to improve efficiency and service at Starbucks, proving the outdoor QSR digital signage model has moved beyond just order confirmation screens. Starbucks will also display advertising on the screen to take advantage of the digital format at the order point.Starbucks 6

CHALLENGES
There were two main challenges. The first was posed by the worst of Mother Nature’s weather. The initial pilot with a non-outdoor display housed in an enclosure had unsatisfactory results. A full outdoor display that could withstand the heat of the desert without the noise and interference of an air conditioner while protecting against rain and dust was needed. A second pilot was done with GDS displays in the heat of the Las Vegas sun, which proved very successful.

The second challenge identified by Starbucks was to improve customer satisfaction by the creation of face time with the barista. To drive increased loyalty, Starbucks needed to revamp the ‘old school’ signage in the drive-thru.

SOLUTIONS
To withstand Mother Nature’s worst weather, a sunlight readable, full-outdoor LCD display with an integrated camera and microphone was deployed in the Starbucks drive-thru lanes.

Replicating the in-store experience through technology, a live video feed of the barista coupled with order confirmation and advertising on one screen maximizes utilization of these digital screens, increases customer interaction and improves efficiency.

The GDS LCD displays are designed and manufactured to withstand the rigors of rain, snow, heat, cold, dust and extreme temperature ranges. They feature optical bonding, thermal management and remote diagnostics to monitor the display from a central location and are engineered so customers with polarized sunglasses can easily read the screen. GDS was chosen by Starbucks due to its proven field operation and front-of-screen performance.

In order to protect PCI compliance, the displays were capable of easily housing video extender electronics, which eliminated a potential issue with the deployment.Starbucks 10

RESULTS
The roll-out of the displays has been met with very positive results. If you’ve recently driven through the local Starbucks to pick up your morning caramel latte, you’ve seen the effect that a 46-inch display with a live feed of the barista can have on your ordering experience. You are talking to a person, not just to a microphone.

The ability to confirm the order via a connection with the in-store POS as well as provide advertising at the order point helps to increase the value of digital in the drive-thru.

A recent news story highlighted the fact that a deaf woman was able to communicate with the barista using American Sign Language. The video of this encounter was shared more than five million times. This story demonstrates one of many unique ways digital signage can be deployed to better serve customers.

GDS won the DSE 2016 Gold Apex Award in the Food & Beverage category.

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