Helping consumers find their nearest Costa location
When you can count the number of stores you have on one hand, it’s easy to list their addresses on a website and show your consumers how to reach them. With more than 4,000 coffee stores spread across 31 countries, Costa Coffee recognized it needed a sophisticated location intelligence solution to intuitively direct its consumers to their nearest Costa Coffee and highlight which services are available where and when.
Since it was founded in 1971, technology has played a crucial role in taking Costa Coffee from a single roastery on London’s Fenchurch Street to a brand found on highstreets, grocery stores, and store cupboards in homes across the world. In 2020, when the coffee store brand wanted to ensure that its consumers were able to continue enjoying their cup of Costa Coffee amidst COVID-19 travel restrictions, the company once again turned to technology to bring new ideas and services to life.
The company wanted to make consumers aware that Costa Express machines remained operating in petrol stations and forecourts up and down the country, even when Costa Coffee stores closed. It also wanted consumers to know that their nearest store offered the facility to order and pay online (and complete a minimal contact collection), and that local stores offered delivery services via partners. Costa Coffee recognized that accurate location data was required to keep consumers informed and safe during an unusual year.
When Covid hit, the company focussed on rolling out more ways to order to more locations. Having used Google Maps Platform in its website and mobile app for years, it knew it could be the solution.
Making it as easy as possible for consumers to get whay they need
When Costa Coffee launched its mobile app in 2017, it wanted to provide location intelligence features that would make its consumers’ journeys quicker and easier. When a customer imputed their location in the app, for example, it would pop up the address of their nearest store and its opening hours. But Costa Coffee wanted more. How about an interactive element that gave consumers the option to order online and show up when their order was ready for collection? These ideas would decrease waiting times, which in 2020, due to COVID-19 safety measures, was a matter of security and precaution, in addition to convenience.
To bring these ideas to life, Costa Coffee turned to its long-standing Google Cloud Premier Partner, Snowdrop Solutions. “We decided to leverage more Google Maps Platform capabilities because our developers find it easy to work with, and it supports all the functionalities we need, from routes that assist consumers to our stores to services such as click and collect,” explains Gordon Lucas, Global Head of Digital Engineering at Costa Coffee.
With a small web development team based in its UK headquarters, it was also important for Costa Coffee to be able to build in functionality that can be seamlessly rolled out across its multiple territories around the world. To that end, Costa Coffee embedded Google Maps Platform within its mobile app and international website, using the Google Geocoding API to create visual place markers illustrating Costa Coffee locations on its maps.
To save users time, they also leveraged Place Autocomplete to predict addresses and check their accuracy when consumers are making an online order.
“The Places API powers our click-and-serve feature, where baristas bring orders to consumers’ cars. Now consumers can see how long their drive to the nearest service is,” explains Gordon.
Relying on accurate location data to deliver services safely during COVID-19
When the pandemic and lockdowns forced stores to adapt in 2020, the new Google Maps Platform solutions employed by Costa Coffee online became even more invaluable for the business and its consumers.
“Our Store Locator became crucial during lockdown, when opening times changed and restrictions looked different depending on where stores are based, each complying with their local lockdown measures,” explains Gordon. “Having our Google Maps Platform solutions in place then meant that we were always able to show our consumers which stores or drive-thrus near them were open and safely serving great coffee during a time when, more than ever, they sought comfort in their favourite Costa Coffee beverage. That’s why our Store Locator quickly became the most visited page on our website.”
Although not part of the development specification, Google Maps Platform quickly became a vital part of Costa Coffee’s internal COVID-19 hygiene initiative too. While hundreds of its stores were forced to temporarily close, Costa Coffee’s 9,000 Express machines in grocery stores and petrol stations were working overtime when they were some of the few places selling cups of coffee. “Our mobile ordering system lets you find an Express machine, scan your order request, and pick up your drink without touching the screen,” says Gordon.
The hands-free order-and-collect system was adapted for standalone stores too, allowing users to find and select a store, place an order, avoid queues, and pay and collect products, speeding up the transaction process and minimizing the risk of transmission between consumers and baristas.
“At the end of the first lockdown, for example, we saw huge consumption numbers on our mapping technology as people were trying to find their nearest Costa Coffee and eager to enjoy the experience of buying a coffee or snack, something that was normal pre-lockdown but had by then become a ‘treat’,” says Gordon.
Location intelligence is also used to improve the experience of consumers from when they first order a cappuccino and cake, to when they arrive at a Costa Coffee store to enjoy it.
Bringing consumers around the world closer to Costa Coffee
Costa Coffee has not changed its Mocha Italia Signature Blend in 50 years, but it is continually using the latest technology to improve its distribution, accessibility, and customer service. In its latest development, it is trialling robotic coffee bars in the US, and Google Maps Platform will be integral to raising users’ awareness of their whereabouts too.
“Google Maps Platform is now a key part of our digital operations. It helps us to make our communications more relevant to consumers and boost sales by ensuring that consumers always know where and when to get their cup of Costa Coffee,” says Gordon. “That’s why Costa Coffee continues to innovate and experiment with Google Maps Platform to ensure that wherever our consumers are in the world, they are never far from a Costa Coffee Americano or classic Latte.”