Starbucks rang in the fall season ahead of schedule this year, with its earliest ever launch of the beloved Pumpkin Spice Latte. With the drink available on menus from August 27th, Starbucks received significant backlash for cutting summer short.
But has the move paid off in increasing traffic to the coffee shops? Let’s have a look.
Slow Starbucks Summers
Taking a look at launch day 2019 showed the lowest Tuesday traffic for the month, 9.4% below the baseline - indicating that the early launch may not have been the greatest of ideas. But weekends at Starbucks show very clear peaks over weekdays, with most campaigns seeing their strongest value on Saturdays - something of even greater importance for an extended ‘event’ like this one. And here the value was able to shine through. The weekend of the launch was August’s strongest, with visits rising 19.1% above the baseline.
Battling the Seasons
But what really jumps out when looking at foot traffic data for a longer period - in this case, June 2017 through early September - is the consistent dip in summer traffic. For the past two years, the drink launched on the weekends of September 9th and September 1st respectively, with this year’s launch falling just short of September. The early September period marked the beginning of an upward trend in visits, as the summer months wrap up and fall rolls in. And all these points taken together indicate an attempt to push more rapidly into a period of greater Starbucks strength.
Though potentially triggered by seasonality, it’s no coincidence that Starbucks is continuously pushing forward Pumpkin Spice Latte weekends. It’s little incentives like this fall favorite that help keep Starbucks top of mind, and a popular coffee destination. Besides the obvious holiday weekend jumps, we investigated a couple of weekend peaks over past years. Even more, they show the strategic pushes by the brand to learn from seasonality and develop concepts that can help them own the calendar.
Starbucks understands something very important about coffee - people are more likely to drink a hot cup in the winter than in the summer. While this very simple concept may seem obvious it reflects a critical element of the QSR giant’s strategy. Instead of trying to change human behavior, they look to adapt their product range to address the specific needs of each specific period. Whether it be an early launch of a campaign to bring in fall a bit faster or an attractive offer to boost an existing strength, Starbucks continues to set the standard for strategic ownership of seasonality.