Starbucks is expanding its partnership with Alibaba by allowing its customers to order food and beverages through four of Alibaba’s flagship apps, the companies announced on Tuesday.

Why it matters: The partnership represents the deepening ties between Alibaba and Starbucks, offering new growth opportunities for both companies as China bounces back from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

  • Cooperating with Starbucks on its “Starbucks Now” platform, the coffee giant’s mobile order and pickup service, falls in line with Alibaba’s focus on local lifestyle services as offline services in China see an uptick in usage after the outbreak.

Details: The new partnership allows customers to order food and beverages through the newly launched Starbucks Now feature in Alibaba’s apps, including e-commerce platform Taobao, digital mapping and information provider Amap, local services app Koubei, and mobile payments app Alipay.

  • These apps serve nearly 1 billion customers in China, the coffee chain’s largest and fastest-growing market.
  • By activating Starbucks Now through any of the four apps, users can pre-order and pay for their Starbucks beverages and food online, and then pick them up in-person at most Starbucks stores across the Chinese mainland.
  • Launched in May 2019, Starbucks Now was previously only available through the Starbucks China mobile app. More than 93% of Starbucks stores support the services as of 2019, according to the company’s announcement.

Context: Alibaba and Starbucks began their partnership in 2018 to stave off rivalry from upstart Luckin Coffee. The Chinese coffee chain in April admitted to sales fraud, dealing a massive blow to the company, which resulted in the removal of four directors, including co-founder and former chairperson Charles Lu, from its board.

  • Starbucks and Alibaba’s previous partnership is wide-ranging and covers Starbucks deliveries through Alibaba’s local services platform Ele.me, new retail grocery chain Freshippo, and voice ordering on virtual assistant Tmall Genie.

Emma Lee

Emma Lee is Shanghai-based tech writer, covering startups and tech happenings in China and Asia in general. We are looking for stories related to tech and China. Reach her at lixin@technode.com.