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咖啡战争:星巴克为什么在中国加开外卖业务?

Eamon Barrett 2018年08月16日

星巴克外卖业务将于今秋推出。此外,阿里巴巴还将帮助其打造综合性的在线服务,让顾客能够进行一次性完成购物、买咖啡、积分、支付的全部流程。

市场估值约十亿美元的中国咖啡初创企业瑞幸今年春天公开致函星巴克,要起诉这家西雅图咖啡企业实施垄断,那时美国咖啡巨头星巴克把这当一种单纯的市场营销伎俩。“我们无意参与其它品牌的营销炒作”,星巴克如是回应道。

然而,星巴克在中国市场的战略最近突然出现改变,这说明星巴克觉得瑞幸的威胁远远不止被告上法庭。星巴克最新动作包括两周前宣布和阿里巴巴合作开展咖啡外送业务,说明在这场战争里,哥利亚开始正视大卫了,而且不打算被大卫打倒。

瑞幸成立不到一年,创始人是神舟专车的前任COO。七个月的时间里瑞幸已经成为独角兽企业,在最近一轮以新加坡主权财富基金GIC为首的2亿美元融资中,估值达到10亿美元。

五月,瑞幸兑现承诺,起诉星巴克劝诱房东签订排他性租约,防止竞争对手在星巴克所在地点开店。尽管如此,瑞幸仍然快速扩张。自1月试营业以来,瑞幸已在中国开了近600家店铺,星巴克花了12年才达到这个数字。

但瑞幸的咖啡店不太一样。星巴克的门店强调舒适,希望为顾客在家和办公室之外提供“第三个地方”进行社交。相反,瑞幸门店中将近一半是“外卖厨房”,只做在线订单的外卖业务。瑞幸受欢迎代表了中国消费文化的更迭,而星巴克却没有做出及时调整。

“第三个地方”

星巴克1999年进入中国市场时,希望为顾客提供第三个驻足之所的理念和中国新兴的中产阶级不谋而合,这些人在拥挤的办公室里了圈了一天后不愿意那么快就回到狭窄的公寓里。

星巴克充分利用自己的国际身份,把自己定位为高端品牌。虽然中国那时不是(现在也仍然不是)主要咖啡消费市场,手里拿着一杯星巴克很快就成为身份的象征。

但它的高端路线差点在2013年翻了车,因为消费者发现星巴克在中国的定价比美国高。更何况,如果算上和平均收入的相对值,中国星巴克就显得更贵了:美国人均月工资能买1000杯拿铁,北京平均收入者只能买200杯。

瑞幸咖啡比星巴克最多能便宜三成,而且它还在进行价格补贴,推出“买二送一”、“买五送五”的优惠活动。有20亿人民币(2.9亿美元)现金储备在手,瑞幸CEO说公司“不着急盈利”——这更像是中国科技创业公司的态度而非咖啡公司。

科技是瑞幸的成功关键。它的所有订单都需要通过app下单。哪怕在有休息区的门店里,顾客也得下载瑞幸app下单。支付要用微信或瑞幸自己的咖啡钱包。不能使用现金。

这在中国没那么稀奇,中国的移动支付已经快速成为常态。连星巴克去年也和中国排名第一的在线零售公司阿里巴巴合作在2800家门店里推出了支付宝支付功能。

但瑞幸专注外卖业务利用的是中国消费文化的另外一个重要转变。

中国的食品外卖行业在过去三年里迅速膨胀,市场价值高达410亿美元。为了能统治市场,各家外卖公司纷纷烧钱提供打折优惠引诱消费者(很像瑞幸现在的做法)。不同公司间的冲突甚至衍生了暴力事件,敌对公司的外卖员在街上大打出手。

尽管混乱,生意却一直不错。外卖市场去年增长23%,尤其受到二三十岁消费者的欢迎;这个年龄群占瑞幸业务量的70%。随着更多的千禧一代开始叫外卖了,寻找“第三个地方”的人变少了。

清醒

现在有个估值十亿美元的竞争对手打到家门口了,星巴克终于觉醒,意识到中国的消费文化出现了改变,邀请阿里巴巴联手进行咖啡外送业务。阿里巴巴旗下有中国第二大外卖服务公司饿了么,以后300万饿了么外卖员也开始送星巴克咖啡外卖了。

星巴克没说推出外卖业务是因为瑞幸,但其中一些业务和瑞幸相似,比如专做外卖订单的全新“星巴克外卖厨房”。这一新项目将于今秋在北京和上海试点,之后再向星巴克其它门店快速扩张,最终确保势力范围能彻底超越瑞幸。

除了咖啡,阿里巴巴还将帮助星巴克打造综合性的在线服务,让顾客能够进行一次性完成购物、买咖啡、积分、支付的全部流程。星巴克把这个数字工程称为“第四个地方”,希望能把它和第三个地方有机结合, 打造线上线下一体化服务。

这在中国不是新想法。阿里巴巴称之为“新零售”,2016年起就开始推广这一模型。瑞幸一开始遵循的也是这个模型,事实证明在咖啡行业大受欢迎。

然而,瑞幸可能会因为这种模型的流行而遭遇滑铁卢。瑞幸应该为星巴克开始拥抱新零售感到担忧,因为后者是在现有实体店基础上增加线上服务,这可比从零开始构建全新体系容易多了。星巴克已经有3400家门店,还计划在未来4年里每15小时就在中国开一家新门店。

它还在适应,但适应是为了留下来。正如霍华德·舒尔茨在全球最大的星巴克——上海旗舰店星巴克烘焙工坊——召开的圆桌会议上所说:“所有不看好星巴克在中国发展的人都大错特错。”(财富中文网)

译者:Agatha 

When Luckin, a billion-dollar Chinese coffee start-up, penned an open letter this spring to Starbucks threatening to sue the Seattle-based brewer on antitrust grounds, the U.S. coffee giant dismissed it as a mere marketing gimmick. “We have no intention of participating in the promotion hype of other brands,” it responded.

But sudden changes to its China strategy suggests that Starbucks saw a threat in Luckin much bigger than being taken to court. Recent moves by Starbucks, including the delivery partnership it announced two weeks ago with Alibaba, indicate that in this particular battle, Goliath is taking David seriously, and doesn’t intend to get knocked out.

Luckin was founded less than a year ago by Jenny Qian, the former COO of Uber-like car provider, UCAR. Within seven months, it had already achieved unicorn status, clinching its billion-dollar valuation in a $200 million funding round led by Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, GIC.

In May, it made good on its promise and sued Starbucks, alleging the coffee house was coaxing landlords into signing exclusive rental agreements, preventing rival coffee shops from opening stores in Starbucks locations. Despite this claim, Luckin has expanded quickly. Since its soft launch in January, the coffee house has opened close to 600 stores in China – a feat it took Starbucks twelve years to achieve.

But Luckin’s coffee shops are different. Starbucks stores have always emphasized comfort, providing a “third place” for consumers to socialize outside of their homes or offices. Conversely, nearly half of Luckin’s shops are “takeaway kitchens”, dedicated exclusively to fulfilling orders made online and delivering them out of store. Luckin’s popularity represents a shift in China’s consumer culture that Starbucks has been slow to react to.

The ‘third place’

When Starbucks entered China in 1999, its third place strategy resonated with China’s emerging middle class, who were reluctant to return to cramped apartments after spending long hours confined to crowded offices.

Starbucks was also able to capitalize on its international standing and present itself as a premium brand. Even though the Chinese weren’t (and still aren’t) major coffee drinkers, clutching a Starbucks cup soon became a status symbol.

But its premium branding almost backfired in 2013 when consumers discoveredthat Starbucks was charging more in China than it was in the U.S. Worse, Starbucks is also more expensive in China relative to the average income: in America, the average salary buys 1,000 lattes a month, but in Beijing the average earner can only afford 200.

Luckin’s coffee is up to 30% cheaper than the java at Starbucks, and it issubsidizing its prices, offering “buy two, get one free” and “buy five, get five free” offers. With Rmb2 billion ($290 million) in cash reserves, CEO Qian has said Luckin is “in no rush to make a profit” – an attitude more typical of a Chinese tech start-up than a coffee shop.

Tech is pivotal to Luckin’s success. All of its orders are made in-app. Even at the stores where patrons can actually sit and relax, customers have to download the Luckin app to place an order. Payment is then made through WeChat or Luckin’s own Coffee Wallet. There is no cash option.

This doesn’t seem so unnatural in China, where mobile payments are fast becoming the norm. Even Starbucks teamed up with the nation’s number one online retailer, Alibaba, last year to roll out AliPay features across 2,800 stores.

But Luckin’s emphasis on delivery harnesses another major shift in consumer culture.

China’s food delivery industry has ballooned over the last three years into a market valued at $41 billion. Seeking dominance, competing couriers have burned through cash offering discounts to entice users (much like Luckin is doing now). Clashes between the companies have even turned violent, with drivers from the rival firms brawling on the streets.

Despite the chaos, business has been good. The market grew 23% last year, proving particularly popular among 20-30 year olds: a demographic that also makes up 70% of Luckin’s business. As more millenials turn to deliveries, fewer will be seeking that third place.

Smell the coffee

Now that it has a billion dollar rival on its doorstep, Starbucks has woken up to China’s changing consumer culture and has enlisted Alibaba to help it run deliveries. Alibaba owns Ele.me, China’s second-largest food delivery provider, and will dedicate some of its three million drivers to running Starbucks orders.

Starbucks doesn’t say its new delivery deal is a response to Luckin, but some of its features are familiar, such as the new “Starbucks Delivery Kitchens” dedicated exclusively to fulfilling delivery orders. The new program will be trialed in Beijing and Shanghai this fall before spreading rapidly across Starbucks’ other locations, completely dwarfing Luckin’s reach.

Besides running coffee, Alibaba will also help Starbucks create a comprehensive presence online, allowing customers to buy merchandise, order coffee, collect points and make payments all through one service. Starbucks refers to this digital footprint as a “fourth place,” and it wants to integrate it with its third places, creating a confluence of online and offline services.

This is not a new idea in China. Alibaba calls it “New Retail” and has been championing the model since 2016. It is also the model that Luckin has adhered to from the get-go and proved to be popular for coffee.

The model’s popularity, however, could potentially lead to Luckin’s own downfall. Luckin should be worried now that Starbucks has embraced New Retail, because it is easier to add internet on top of existing offline services than build a whole system from scratch. Starbucks already has 3,400 locations and plans to add a new China store every 15 hours for the next four years.

It may be adapting, but it is doing so to stay. As Howard Schultz warned at a roundtable in Shanghai’s flagship Starbucks Roastery – the biggest Starbucks in the world – “Anyone who is betting against Starbucks in China is dead wrong.”

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