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Starbucks and Alibaba team up in ‘Genie-us’ delivery service

Starbucks and Alibaba have teamed up to allow consumers in China to order coffee using Tmall’s ‘Genie’ smart speaker.

Consumers in China can now tell their Tmall smart speaker ‘I want Starbucks delivered’, and their order will arrive within 30 minutes.

They can also track the delivery status of their orders in real-time, as well as connect membership accounts to the smart speaker to earn Starbucks rewards with every purchase, which add up to free food and drinks.

Soon, members will also receive personalised recommendations based on their previous orders and trending items from Starbucks’ seasonal menu, according to Miffy Chen, GM of Alibaba A.I. Labs, the artificial-intelligence research unit behind the Tmall Genie.

She said the collaboration helps both companies meet the needs of China’s digitally savvy consumers, who are increasingly expecting seamless, on-demand deliveries for everything from ordering groceries to food and medicine.

Molly Liu, VP and GM of the digital ventures division at Starbucks China, said the new smart speaker marks a new era of digital customer engagement for Starbucks and will help “[elevate] their connection with customers to new heights.”

“We are focused on ensuring that Starbucks voice-ordering is truly personal, and we look forward to offering our customers more convenient moments and new opportunities to engage with Starbucks on a single integrated platform as they move throughout the day,” Liu said.

This is the latest initiative between Alibaba and the coffee giant to promote the online ordering of its food and beverage products. Starbucks last year partnered with Alibaba’s last-mile fulfilment service,, and has built ‘delivery kitchens’ in the company’s Hema supermarkets.

About 3000 Starbucks Genies, priced at RMB 199 ($41) each, sold out instantly during a livestream hosted by popular Taobao livestreamer Viya Huang last Monday. Huang’s five-hour stream had attracted more than 829 million views.

The smart speaker, which comes in the brand’s classic shade of green, features its teddy-bear mascot “Bearista” behind a DJ turntable. Users can play music from a curated playlist by telling the Tmall Genie to “play some Starbucks music,” a feature powered by Alibaba’s music-streaming app Xiami.

While China’s per-capita demand for coffee is still a fraction of US consumption – an average mainland Chinese consumer drinks three cups a year versus 363 cups in the US – total consumption grew at an average annual rate of 16 per cent in the last decade, significantly outpacing the world average of 2 per cent, according to the International Coffee Organization.

This article is a version of the story first published by Christine Chou on Alizila, Alibaba’s news site.

This story first appeared on sister site Inside Retail Asia.

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