What Starbucks can teach us about consumer behaviour

“A tall skinny macchiato with syrup and 4 shots please.”

On a recent visit to Starbucks I spent some time watching and listening as customers flowed in, collected their drinks, and left to head to their busy work days ahead.

One gentleman walked in and if I had to guess I’d have put him as a standard cappuccino kinda guy. But I was wrong – instead he asked for a tall skinny macchiato with syrup and 4 shots.

I always enjoy people watching, but after hearing a few orders – even within the rush hour in the centre of London in a coffee shop – something blindingly obvious struck me: people can be so very different from each other.

It’s pretty obvious when you think of anywhere that has a menu as extensive as Starbucks, but it made me reflect on assumptions we often make throughout the day when running a business.

It’s easy to think people are “like you”. And it’s easy to think “no one would do that!” Or “why would anyone ever ever want that?!”

Figuring out what people want doesn’t necessarily mean you need to hold a bunch of user groups or feedback sessions or do extensive research.

Sometimes all you need is a reminder – get out of the building and just watch the world go by for 10 minutes.

Starbucks is a great place to observe consumer behaviour in all its wonder.

James Gill

CEO and co-founder of GoSquared.

London, UK