Starbucks in China: Creating Coffee
It must be a fact that the first truly positive experience with coffee many people in China have is at Starbucks. What do you think?
Starbucks might be the first time any given Chinese consumer has had truly good quality coffee. Many Chinese people have no idea what good coffee should taste like. The only coffee many have had is of the instant variety — instant Maxwell House or instant Nescafe.
Until they step foot into Starbucks for the first time, many Chinese people have no idea that coffee can be truly delicious and not just an instant nasty pick me up.
Starbucks in China: Creating a new image of Coffee
Starbucks is recreating the image of coffee in the minds of millions upon millions of Chinese people.
As Starbucks expands, this phenomena will become more and more apparent. At the moment, there are still a relatively limited number of Starbucks stores in China. Their expansion in China will assuredly continue, and Starbucks is already well on the road to complete domination of the coffee market in China.
A Chinese Consumer’s First Taste of Coffee
Imagine, for a minute, a Chinese consumer who has never had coffee in a Western coffee chain or coffee chain period. Their knowledge of coffee is likely limited to the bitter taste of the instant crap they might have drunk during crunch times for more focused studying or just out of curiousity. Of course such experiences will have left most Chinese consumers with a bitter taste in their mouths.
Now imagine this same Chinese customer coming to Starbucks for the first time. Whatever type of coffee he or she orders, it is sure to be of much higher quality than instant Nescafe or the like. This, in combination with the environment, design, music, comfortable seating, and more, will combine to form an indelible impression on the typical mid to upper class Chinese consumer’s mind. They might begin to understand, for the first time, why expats like coffee so much, and start to ‘get’ the coffee experience.
As Starbucks continues to expand in China with little true competition, more and more of these experiences will take place. Second and perhaps even third tier cities without comparable competitors may be especially prone to Starbucks influence in China, once the average level of middle class incomes in such areas rises.
Finding Good Fortune in China
There is a large class of Chinese consumers who will never be able to afford Starbucks coffee. This is a reality. Yet for those who can afford it, Starbucks is creating the very idea of good coffee in China. It is a strategy that is sure to bring Starbucks good fortune in tomorrow’s China.