Clearing Up a Coffee Conundrum

This article was published in the September 2016 issue of STORES Magazine.

Peet’s Coffee gives customers a ‘more holistic’ experience

In 2013, Berkeley, Calif.-based Peet’s Coffee took note of a significant gap in its sales strategy: the lack of an efficient and effective mobile sales platform. A stalwart performer across a number of other sales channels, company officials noticed changes emerging in the world of online commerce.

“In the past, we relied solely on a legacy mobile site that provided information on store locations but little else — there was no way to monetize that experience,” says Paul Johnson, director of product management at Peet’s.

Expert partners

The company owes its long history of success to founder Alfred Peet, who devoted his life to the coffee industry. Born in 1920 in Alkmaar, Holland, Peet grew up in the business, working in his father’s small coffee roasting business. After World War II, he moved to London where he worked as a taster for Lipton Tea. Peet later traveled extensively before emigrating to the San Francisco area in 1955, and was surprised at the inferior nature of American coffee. Years later, he recalled asking himself, “I came to the richest country in the world, so why are they drinking the lousiest coffee?”

As it happened, wartime rationing had made lesser quality coffee the norm in the United States, a trend which persisted over a decade later. That negative experience motivated Peet to sell quality coffee beans directly to the public, and in 1966 he opened Peet’s Coffee, Tea & Spices in Berkeley. The store sourced beans from Central America and Africa before roasting them in small batches. Initially Peet’s sold only coffee beans, but later added drip coffee.

The company experienced modest growth during its early years, all in the San Francisco Bay area. Today Peet’s operates some 250 retail locations, with the highest concentration on the West Coast. Recently the company has expanded to carefully chosen markets along the East Coast, including Massachusetts, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. Peet’s also has several stores in the Chicago area, and expansion into additional areas is being contemplated.

The company also sells its products through supermarkets and limited partners, including airport stores and specialty grocers.

After identifying its online gap in mid-2013, Peet’s listened to customers’ feedback, which provided the motivation to take the next step in expanding its e-commerce footprint. It set a goal of rolling out a new mobile sales portal prior to the 2013 holiday season of that year, but recognized it would require outside help.

“We’re a rather small, nimble team on the technology side,” Johnson says, “so we knew we needed to partner with an expert.”

Search and buy

To meet these goals, Johnson and his team chose Moovweb, a developer of cloud-based systems known for their “scalability” — the ability for a website or app to increase its net capacity as circumstances dictate. Moovweb was also willing to work closely with Peet’s technology team to meet the company’s holiday season deadline. Three years later, the partnership is still going strong.

Johnson lists functions such as direct sales, automatic subscription fulfillment (a major source of revenue with a consumable item such as coffee) and the offering of an enhanced cafe locator and menu discovery as goals in the development of a new mobile experience for Peet’s customers, known affectionately as “Peetniks” in company vernacular.

Peet’s mobile e-commerce site emulates the company’s desktop site and offers a vast array of buying options.

Peet’s mobile e-commerce site encapsulates all these features, emulating the company’s desktop site, and offers a vast array of buying options. The search function allows customers to find and select coffee by roast, type or region. Once the items in the selected category appear, the visitor can further refine the search by sorting by name or price. So, for example, if a Peetnik is looking for the choicest beans in a one-pound bag from the Americas, the site will steer her to Guatemala San Sebastian at $16.95. The same flexibility is offered for Peet’s tea offerings.

K-Cup packs (packages of 16, 64 or 96 single serving “pods” of ground beans intended for use in Keurig brewers) can also be searched and ordered in a similar fashion, as can Peet’s subscriptions and various gift items, including bean grinders and home brewing kits.

To develop such an effective online tool, Moovweb’s designers needed to utilize their expertise in both user experience and user interface modes of design. The two fields can roughly be thought of as left brain and right brain, respectively. Both can be viewed as part art, part science.

According to Fast Company, experience design is concerned with the feel and flow of the finished product: “The broad responsibility of an [experience] designer is to ensure that the product logically flows from one step to the next. One way that an [experience] designer might do this is by conducting in-person user tests to observe one’s behavior. By identifying verbal and non-verbal stumbling blocks, they refine and iterate to create the ‘best’ user experience.”

Interface design, on the other hand, is more concerned with the visual aspects of a site, with the goal of making it appear coherent and intuitive. An interface “designer creating an analytics dashboard might front load the most important content at the top, or decide whether a slider or a control knob makes the most intuitive sense to adjust a graph,” Fast Company wrote. Interface “designers are also typically responsible for creating a cohesive style guide and ensuring that a consistent design language is applied across the product.”

“Moovweb’s team is skilled in both these areas and was able to apply them to Peet’s Coffee’s unique needs,” says April Rassa, product marketing director at Moovweb.

Peet’s saw a 142 percent increase in mobile-generated revenue.

Serving different customers

Customers have responded favorably. According to Moovweb, Peet’s rollout resulted in a first-year increase of 34 percent in total mobile visits, a 93 percent increase in mobile conversions and a 142 percent increase in mobile-generated revenue. It’s hard to argue with success.

“Mobile e-commerce and in-store sales serve different customers with divergent needs,” he says. “For example, in our stores we offer drip coffee, ready to drink, while a mobile Peetnik will typically order a bag of our beans to use at home or their office.”