Are you getting the RIGHT Starbucks Experience? — Redesigning the Starbucks Singapore App

Yvette Sim
NYC Design
Published in
8 min readSep 16, 2018


This case study article covers UX research including creating Customer Personas and Customer Journey Maps to redesign an existing Mobile app for a food service company.

1. The Challenge

At the halfway mark for the User Experience Design Immersive course at General Assembly, on to the third of five projects we will complete as part of this course.

This time, we had the opportunity to choose an existing mobile app. Working in a team of 3(with new partners, Shiyang and Junxiang), we were to identify actual real problems with the app and design a solution accordingly with a mid-fidelity prototype as a deliverable in 10 days.

The Starbucks mobile was selected as it was widely acknowledged as the most popular mobile payment app in the US and yet in Singapore, the app received relatively low ratings. This presented an excellent opportunity for us to dive deeper into the reasons why there was such a significant difference.

2. Diving into the Starbucks Experience

We first began by crafting out a research plan. This started with desktop research and heuristic evaluation to give us a better insight into the Starbucks business goals and existing gaps in the Starbucks Singapore app. As this mobile app was created to support its in-store activities, we also included contextual observations with users interviews. From the information gathered, we created 3 personas and their customer journey maps which would guide our design strategy.

Our Research Process

The functions of the app are simple:

  • As an e-wallet including payment, reloading and adding new Starbucks card
  • Rewards including earning Stars, rewards and members-only offers
  • Stores: Information on stores
  • Gifts: Users can send e-gift cards to friends
  • Menu: Users can browse through menu items

Based on desktop research, a key strategy of Starbucks moving forward is:

To build personalized digital relationships with customers that create new revenue opportunities

With Starbucks having an emphasis on its customer experience as its value proposition, the mobile app has to be an extension of its retail experience making customer interactions with Starbucks as seamless as possible. More than that, the app will help Starbucks built its relationships with its customers that extends to new revenue opportunities.

3. Research

A) User Interviews

Field observations were first carried out at the store level to observe the main demographics of the Starbucks customers and the frequency of use of the rewards card and mobile app. This was also critical to understand what the pain points customers are facing at the store which the mobile app can potentially solve.

Field observations at Starbucks store: User using app and customers waiting at counter

We then conducted user interviews with actual Starbucks customers to understand the context of use for the Starbucks app and the pain points Starbucks customers faced in using the app. It was important as well to know their goals and what their key concerns were. We also better understood the behaviour and attitudes of the users toward the app through usability tests of the existing app.

Our initial hypothesis from in-store contextual observations and user interviews at this point was to focus on creating a solution to manage waiting time in the queue. This however did not quite seem to address the relevance of the mobile app to the Starbucks experience or align itself to the Starbucks business goal.

We decided to proceed with personas and creating customer journey maps to see if we could refine it to a more relevant problem.

B) Personas

The information from contextual observations and user interviews was synthesised through affinity mapping and used to create 3 key personas of Starbucks customers.

The creation of personas here is intended to help us understand the users’ needs, experiences, behaviours and goals. This creates empathy with the users and understand what the actual problem is vs what we assumed it to be.

The personas created:

i) Lyndy, 44 years old, fashion entrepreneur: She needs to drink coffee at least once or twice a day at Starbucks. She uses the mobile app daily and treats it like an e-Wallet for her multiple Starbucks cards

ii) Jack, 36 years old, sales director: He drinks coffees at least once or twice a day at Starbucks as part of his daily routine from Mon — Fri. He uses the mobile app so that he does not have to carry the Starbucks card in his wallet

iii) Natalie,26 years old, arts students/freelance designer: She goes 4–5 times a week to Starbucks, stays around 3 -4 hours each time. She carries a couple of Starbucks card around and has a love hate relation with the app having signed up and deleted the app a few times.

Our 3 Personas

C) Customer Journey Map

We took a walk with our personas through The Starbucks Experience to identify the existing gaps and identify the opportunities especially this is an omnichannel journey.

Sharing the Starbucks Experience through our Personas

At this juncture, with the personas and customer journey mapping created, more user interviews and further affinity mapping, the true problems we had to solve begin to be more apparent.

“Identified real issues with Affinity Mapping!”

The real problems we now saw were actually :

i) Walk in customers need a way to select the most available Starbucks because they want to avoid having to wait for a seat.

ii) Customers need a way to pay easily because the current payment process is troublesome.

iii) Customers need a simpler way to sign up for the Starbucks app because the signup process is tedious and requires too many details.

4. The Solution

It was critical at this point to relook at how we can align the Starbucks business goals with user goals.

‘Accessibility’ was the key to align both sides. For the Starbucks business, the solution will help it gain access to users to build the digital relationship needed to drive new revenue. For the users, the solution should allow accessibility to the desired stores at the right time, accessibility to making payments quickly and accessibility to rewards through a smooth sign up process.

Finding that magic alignment between Business Goals and User Goals

Through the above lens and using an Impact/Effort matrix , we decided to focus redesign on the 3 key screens of ‘Stores’, ‘Payment’ and ‘Sign Up’.

The key redesign ideas are:

a) Stores [Walk in customers need a way to select the most available Starbucks because they want to avoid having to wait for a seat]

  • The crowd level indicator shows the crowd level at the store helping users to determine which store to head towards
  • Users can view what is available at each outlet including wi-fi, power outlets and seating capacity
  • With the above changes, users can more easily decide which is the most available and nearest Starbucks store to them

b) Payment [Customers need a way to pay easily because the current payment process is troublesome.

  • To ease access: Google , Facebook access and Touch ID
  • Rewards (Stars) and Pay on 1 single screen
  • Quick access to all Reward Cards — set default card

c) Sign Up[Customers need a simpler way to sign up for the Starbucks app because the signup process is tedious and requires too many details.]

  • Ease sign up process with Google or Facebook access
  • Increased convenience with OTP instead of email and website confirmation
  • Reduced information required at initial sign up stage to shorten the sign up process

Try out the prototype here:

5. Usability Test

5 users with demographics similar to the 3 personas tested the prototype app to complete 3 main tasks. All were successful in completing tasks and rated the prototype an average of 74% for usability based on a System Usability Scale Test (SUS) which was within our targeted results. The test results showed that our proposed user flows generally allowed them to complete their tasks. However, it also provided us with further feedback to improve our user interface. Some of the comments include how certain terms were named, use of icons and placement of buttons have to be adjusted. These were taken into consideration and changed accordingly.

You can view the usability test report here and the final project presentation here

Final Thoughts and Learnings

Firstly , a big thank you to my partners Shiyang and Junxiang for working through this in such a short period.

Secondly, this project reminded me of why I wanted to move into UX as a UX designer. Having been in marketing roles for most part of my career, I often pondered about the true value that our products were giving to our users.

While being involved in new product development brought me closer to understanding how we were creating products for our users, I felt that there was always a missing piece of the puzzle.

As marketeers, we brought value to the company through the various marketing campaigns and promotion with the increase in revenue. In UX, we created value for the customers based on their needs which will in turn drive value for the business.

Being a UX designer (budding anyway 😊) helped me to create that sweet spot between business and user goals. My past experience in marketing definitely helped me in this project especially in the initial stages when we were trying to come up with the problem statement.

While there were several valid problems that users faced , focusing on the business goals helped us to work on the solutions that will be most immediately effective to align both business and user goals.

Thanks for reading! If you want to collaborate, talk about product design, or just want to say hello, reach me at .

Disclaimer: The above article is a documentation of a course project as part of the User Experience Design Immersive (UXDI) course at General Assembly, Singapore. The project brief was provided to simulate a real-life scenario. The writer and content of this article is not affiliated with the mentioned organisation in any way.



Yvette Sim
NYC Design

A UX designer with a background in marketing and business development. I have an inquisitive mind and enjoy traveling to broaden my perspectives.