Brewing Data into Loyalty: A Starbucks vs. Dunkin' Data Strategy Roast with Andrew Smith, CEO at Swapt

Jared Mintzlaff

November 15, 2023

Walk into any Starbucks, and you're not just a customer; you're a data point, a unique blend of preferences and behaviors brewing in their vast, caffeinated data pool. Now, walk into a Dunkin' Donuts, and you're... well, just another transaction.

This isn't just a tale of two coffee giants; it's a stark look into the data-driven chasm that separates the 'knows-you-by-your-coffee-order' from the 'here's-your-coffee-now-leave.'

Starbucks has turned every latte into a loyalty lesson, while Dunkin' has, quite frankly, dunked the opportunity to know its customers beyond the counter.

As e-commerce founders and marketers, the question looms: Are you a Starbucks or a Dunkin' in your data strategy? Before you spill your espresso in protest, let's run through the tactical and actionable insights that can turn your brand towards a Starbucks-like loyalty.

Let's pour over the details and enjoy way too many coffee puns along the way. But first, enjoy this week’s deep dive with Andrew Smith, CEO of Swapt, who shared some incredible insights about data, loyalty, and so much more:

Data: The Grande Difference

Starbucks doesn't just know your drink; it knows you. With every swipe of the app, Starbucks is dialing in on your habits, preferences, and even your skipped coffee runs. Meanwhile, Dunkin' seems to be stuck in the drip coffee stage of data analysis—basic, uncomplicated, and not particularly memorable.

Andrew spilled the beans on this stark contrast. Starbucks has a powerful database for every individual who walks through its doors. This isn't just about rewarding Mr. White with points for his Chai Latte indulgence; it's predictive personalization at its finest. Dunkin', on the other hand, is missing the mark, barely scratching the surface of their customers' data.

The Tactical Cup: Actionable Advice for the Data-Thirsty Marketer

As e-commerce trailblazers, your goal isn't to simply collect data; it's to distill it into the elixir of loyalty. Here's how you can do it:

1. Cultivate Your Data Garden

Your first sip of advice: Grow your database like Starbucks cultivates its coffee farms. It's about quality and quantity. Capture every interaction, transaction, and even the non-actions. Tools like Google Analytics, Hotjar, and Segment can help you track your customers' online movements.

2. From Data to Dialogue

Starbucks uses data to talk to you, not at you. Your emails, push notifications, and even the homepage must speak to your customers individually. Utilize AI-driven CRM tools like Salesforce or HubSpot to create conversations, not campaigns.

3. Predictive Personalization

Starbucks might not have a crystal ball, but their predictive analytics come close. Use machine learning algorithms to anticipate your customers' needs. Tools like Azure Machine Learning and TensorFlow can help you build models that predict purchasing patterns.

4. Loyalty: A Program or a Culture?

For Starbucks, loyalty isn't a program; it's a culture. It's not about points; it's about belonging. Build a loyalty program that rewards behaviors, not just purchases. Use a platform like to create a system that feels personal and rewarding.

5. Real-time, All the Time

Starbucks adjusts to real-time data faster than you can say 'Venti.' Implement tools like Adobe Real-Time CDP to react to customer data in the moment, tailoring experiences on the fly.

6. Feedback Loops

Even Starbucks doesn't get it right every time. But they learn. Create feedback loops where customers can tell you what they want directly. Use services like Typeform or SurveyMonkey for regular check-ins with your customer base.

7. Educate and Empower Your Team

Starbucks baristas understand the value of each customer's data. Ensure your team does too. Regular training sessions on data appreciation can go a long way. Tools like Tableau for data visualization can make data a common language in your organization.

Pouring It All Together

As you steam ahead with your data strategy, remember: data is not just a resource; it's the main ingredient. Your eCommerce platform is your café, your customers the patrons, and their data the rich blend of preferences waiting to be crafted into experiences that resonate, satisfy, and keep them coming back for more.

In the frothy sea of data strategies, be the Starbucks. Be the brand that knows its customers by more than their orders. Dunkin' may run on simplicity, but in the world of eCommerce, complexity—and understanding it—wins the race. After all, a customer who feels understood is a customer who stays.

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