By Kimberly Suchy
On March 6, Starbucks announced the grand opening of “The Bank,” the company’s first concept store in Europe. Located in the vast vault of Amsterdam’s historic Amsterdamsche Bank, the store spans 4,500 square feet and mimics a grand theatre space where local patrons take center stage. Wide-open spaces, Dutch oak wood tables and benches, and kitschy, local design touches create a warm environment where people can interact with their community and gain a more visceral connection with the Starbucks brand. Multi-level seating areas welcome poetry readings, music and other cultural activities, rivaling neighborhood coffee shops by appealing to the local artists and poets.
Design Concepts Behind Amsterdamsche Bank’s Starbucks
Liz Muller, Starbucks’ concept design director, was inspired by the role that 17th century Dutch traders played in bringing coffee to the world and envisioned a store that would reflect The Netherlands’ creative demographic. In an article published on the Starbucks website, Muller explained, “My vision was to bring the space to life by celebrating local history and tradition while looking to the future by giving it a sense of theatre and discovery.”
Using sustainable materials and collaborating with more than 35 local artists and craftspeople in the realization of her design, Muller succeeded in bringing a personal aesthetic experience to the otherwise corporate coffee chain.
Although “The Bank” is innovative in its Dutch-minded European design, the Amsterdam store is not the only one of its kind. Starbucks branches all over the world have begun altering their interiors to cater to specific cultural values and consumer behaviors. A recently redesigned store in the small city of Dazaifu, Japan, used the expertise of local architect Kengo Kuma to create an atmosphere of sleek simplicity that is more palatable for Japanese tastes.
Meeting Design Tastes in Asia
Starbucks’ approach to global enterprise is unique to that of most other international companies, as it makes a concerted effort to personalize customers’ connection with the brand. Rather than churning out mass-produced locations with standardized sets, Starbucks uses aesthetics to sell an individualized experience instead of a product.
During an announcement about Starbucks’ initiatives for growth in China, Howard Schultz, chairman, president, and CEO of Starbucks, recognized the importance of employees in the realization of Starbucks as a global, customer-centered brand. In an article recently published on the Starbucks website, Schultz conveyed, “Since our inception, Starbucks has believed in building a different kind of a company, one that grows in a way that is driven by our values. Our partners are at the heart and soul of our signature Starbucks Experience, and have contributed greatly to Starbucks success through every single moment of personal connection they have built with our customers.”
Helping Communities Flourish in China
As Starbucks continues expanding its empire into China, the company has made new initiatives that will further customize the Starbucks experience within individual communities. In a recent article on the Starbucks website, the company emphasizes the importance of individuals in its process toward expansion. The implementation of the Starbucks China University will help improve the company’s people development goals and will train employees with local and global curriculums. Recognizing the significance of traditional family roles in Chinese culture, Schultz reveals that he will join 1,200 Starbucks employees and their family members at two separate family forums in Beijing and Shanghai.
In addition to taking care of new employees, Starbucks seeks to strengthen its authority as a local coffee haven by developing Chinese communities. It has committed to helping local farmers improve coffee quality in the Yunnan Province while marketing the best of the province’s coffee to the rest of the world, according to the Starbucks website.
From customizing store designs to building partner relationships, Starbucks’ culturally cognizant initiatives has molded a global brand that people from varying cultures can connect with. By approaching its international marketing initiatives with a sense of personalized care, Starbucks exemplifies a successful consumer-brand relationship and stands as a model for other companies moving toward global expansion.