Embracing the Starbucks Effect

What is your go-to order at Starbucks? Everyone in our team has their “just right” drink to perk up their day, no two are the same, and Starbucks is more than happy to accommodate.

I feel sorry for the barista who had to make this drink!

What’s special about Starbucks is how they started with something as simple as a cup of coffee and went wild with it. They welcome complexity and customization. It has almost become a badge of honor (or shame) as who has the most complicated drink. I swear I’ve seen cups with more writing on them than blank space. Starbucks even developed nicknames for common combinations like a “red eye” or “black eye”. My favorite is the “why bother” – non-fat, decaf coffee with one sweet and low.

Creating Loyal Customers

Of course, some of that customization adds to the bottom line when you add a pump of vanilla syrup, whip cream, soy milk or an extra shot of espresso. But the real secret to all the customization is that consumers like it, and are willing to pay for it over and over again.

Boomers and Millennials

If you’re a boomer, the customization that Starbucks offers might be a treat – something special and not the normal customer experience we grew up with. For millennials, Starbucks’ customization is more par-the-course since they’ve grown up with it. In fact, Starbucks’ primary target is 25 to 40-year old consumers – accounting for 49% of their business.

Customization Without Going “Custom”

Now take your average Starbucks loyalist and sell them a new home. In many cases, homebuilders do the exact opposite of Starbucks. They take something very complex – building a house – and simplify. Of course, they do this for good reason. Let’s face it, building a house and all the associated options and selections can simply be overwhelming. But that doesn’t mean we should abandon customization completely.

As a Starbucks lover and production housing architect, my goal is to create predesigned options and customizations within a production framework for builders. The goal is to create and price a variety of predetermined options. But builder beware! Just like Starbucks, customers can dream up lots of ways to add flexibility, options and additions to a floorplan. It is estimated that there are as many of 87,000 different drink combinations at Starbucks! Obviously, that’s way too many house options to price – can you imagine the set of construction documents?!?

Beware of Super-Sized Options

Where you draw the line between too many options and not enough is the trick. A lot of the answer has to do with how nimble you are as a builder and the systems you have in place. Too many options will bog down purchasing and estimating. Care should also be taken not to add too many options that increase square footage. I once had a builder who took a 2500 sq. ft. house, added a bonus room, a sun room off the back and a giant sitting room in the master. While each room was wonderful, the square footage of the home grew by over 50%! Suddenly, the kitchen wasn’t big enough for the “venti” sized house.

The Flex Space

One approach takes a small 6’ by 6’ space and offer a variety of choices like a Messy Kitchen, Office Alcove, Pet Room or Beverage Center. This can be as simple or as complex as their builder’s systems will allow and the buyer’s budget can afford. If we keep the space internal, it can be as simple as cabinet options. Located on an exterior wall, it can include window for the office alcove or an exterior door for the pet room. Don’t forget plumbing and electrical considerations and the complexity they add.

A Winning Formula for Millennials and Boomers

A budget-minded millennial buyer may opt for a simple pet room with a place to store the dog food and the dog’s bed. What about boomers? Could this be the key to getting what they really want in their “last” house which is just for them? Perhaps their pet room includes a dog shower.

Every builder we work with has a different formula for solving this dilemma from “It’s included” to total customization and everything in between. Somewhere in the middle is making the complex simple while giving these homeowners something that reflects their personality. Let us help you find the perfect middle ground to attack and turn your shoppers into loyal buyers.