Starbucks expands Chinese order services to multiple Alibaba apps

BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Chinese Starbucks customers can order the coffee chain’s drinks on Alibaba’s Taobao marketplace and mobile map app Amap, the companies said on Tuesday, expanding a partnership signed in 2018.

FILE PHOTO: A worker uses a thermometer to check the temperature of a customer as he enters a Starbucks shop as the country is hit by an outbreak of the new coronavirus, in Beijing, China January 30, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Starbucks’ mobile pre-order and in-store pick up feature, “Starbucks Now”, previously only available on the coffee giant’s own app, will be extended to four Alibaba platforms, including local services app Koubei and digital payment app Alipay.

“The extended service enables Starbucks to engage with more Chinese consumers through multiple channels that tap into the Alibaba digital economy’s user base of nearly 1 billion,” Alibaba said in a statement.

Starbucks said in a separate statement that it hoped the new offering would provide China’s coffee lovers with an added convenience.

Reuters reported that this Starbucks service was available on these Alibaba platforms on Monday. The Alipay and Koubei apps also offer the option to order Starbucks delivery.

Customers have since 2018 been able to order deliveries via Alibaba’s food delivery app under a partnership signed that year, which at the time marked the first time Starbucks Corp offered a formal online delivery service in China.

Starbucks has said it expects sales in China, its biggest growth market, to recover by the end of September from a deep drop because of the pandemic.

Its online push contrasts with the declining fortunes of local rival Luckin Coffee Inc LKNCY.PK whose store numbers outnumbered Starbucks in China earlier this year until a setback caused by a fraud scandal.

In May, Starbucks launched a mini-programme with Alibaba’s rival Tencent Holdings on its chat app WeChat, allowing access to Starbucks’ membership rights and delivery services.

The latest innovations coincide with efforts to kickstart sales as the Chinese economy recovers from the impact of COVID-19 lockdowns and as big U.S. companies see China as their best option for growth regardless of mounting political tensions between Beijing and Washington.

Reporting by Sophie Yu and Brenda Goh; editing by Barbara Lewis and Gerry Doyle