As I was picking up coffee this morning for my roommates at Starbucks (yes, Starbucks, it was convenient) I notice yet another example of just how important thoughtful design plays in a business, and how in turn it affects the guest experience. See exhibit A below. At first sight, a humble quad cup holder, nothing to get excited about. Not nearly has glamorous as the iPhone, but let’s first think about the design considerations then the business impact of this humble cup holder:
- How to minimize the amount of material used to minimize the cost of both production and shipping
- Material needs to be insulated so it doesn’t transfer heat of hot coffee cup
- How to shape it to give it more rigidity so when you have four large, full cups of coffee it doesn’t flex, bend or tear
- How to shape it so that it is also stackable
- How to shape the cup holding ‘shoe’ area, and the slits so that it can snugly, and securely, hold the cups. (The area where the three slits are cut in each of the four ‘shoes’ actually acts like a spring, so when you put a cup in there, it flexes back and holds the cup. The material has to be ridged enough not to bend with four cups, YET springy enough to hold the cup securely, AND afford easy insertion and removal of the cup without too much effort.
This simple piece of equipment, if you think about it, extends the coffee experience (purchased from Starbucks, of course) to be a social activity that can take place away from the store. It enables the company to cater effectively to the multi-order, take-out market. Imagine trying to struggle out of the store while juggling four piping hot venti lattes without a cup holder: You would leave the store frustrated and with a negative experience in mind, which gets associated with the brand and product. Instead, this humble cup holder has turned being the ‘coffee mule’ a positive and convenient task. It gives the guest confidence that he/she can take home up to 8 cups of coffee without too much trouble. So this item is not just functional, I would say it is a core part of business strategy.
Any more examples of how something so simple disguses powerful strategy?
Mr. Cup Holder designer, I salute you.