Coffee giant Starbucks is deepening its partnership with Alibaba with the launch of voice-activated delivery on smart speaker Tmall Genie as it fends off competition from Chinese coffee chain, Luckin.

Why it matters: Closer alignment with Alibaba may help Starbucks in its competition with Luckin as the rivalry expands beyond coffee. Starbucks is not only leveraging Alibaba’s lifestyle services, but also the benefits of its broader ecosystem, from the AI assistant to the music streaming business.

  • The feature connects membership accounts for Tmall Genie, food delivery platform, e-commerce giant Taobao, and Starbucks.
  • Luckin said in May that it was seeking a tie-up with Alibaba-owned, Starbuck’s exclusive delivery partner.
  • China is one of the fastest-growing markets in the world for coffee consumption. The country’s total consumption grew at an average annual rate of 16% in the last decade, significantly outpacing the world average of 2%, according to figures from the International Coffee Organization.

“The Starbucks feature through Alibaba’s Tmall Genie ushers in a new era of digital customer engagement for Starbucks, leveraging ground-breaking digital technology to create an unprecedented experience that elevates our connection with customers to new heights.”

—Molly Liu, vice president and general manager of Digital Ventures at Starbucks China

Details: Customers can now use voice commands to order Starbucks beverages and food for delivery within 30 minutes. Payment can also be made using voiceprint payment technology.

  • After placing the orders, customers can track their orders in real-time through Tmall Genie.
  • Starbucks members also can earn membership points and receive membership updates via the Tmall Genie.
  • The smart speaker will soon be able to recommend items based on order history and seasonal menus during voice orders.
  • Music playlists from Starbucks stores are also available through Alibaba’s music streaming app, Xiami Music.
  • Customers can also purchase an exclusive Starbucks-themed Tmall Genie for RMB 199 ($28) through the Starbucks virtual store on Alibaba’s mobile apps, including Taobao, Alipay, and Tmall.
  • The launch of the new service marks the one-year anniversary of the Starbucks and Alibaba partnership.

Starbucks, Freshippo ‘Star Kitchen’ tie-up opens in Beijing as delivery catches on

Context: The announcement builds on several collaborations between the two companies, including the delivery-only Star Kitchens within Alibaba’s Freshippo supermarkets in China.

Emma Lee (Li Xin) was TechNode's e-commerce and new retail reporter until June 2022, when she moved to Sixth Tone to cover technology and consumption. Get in touch with her via or Twitter.

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