Figures of Progress: Adam Brotman, Chief Digital Officer at Starbucks
Brought to you by IBM. Our Figures of Progress Q&A shares how Starbucks is taking a data-driven approach to transform the customer experience.
GOOD and IBM have teamed up to bring you Figures of Progress, our new platform that explores the different ways that information has revolutionized our world. Through videos, story profiles, and infographics, we're sharing stories about the power of data and how today's leaders in business, city government and nonprofits are finding innovative ways to use it. Here's our latest Figure of Progress interview.
As Chief Digital Officer for Starbucks Coffee Company, Adam Brotman has responsibility for Starbucks’ core digital businesses including web, mobile, social media, card, loyalty, e-commerce, Wi-Fi, and the Starbucks Digital Network. Adam leads the company’s emerging in-store digital and entertainment teams and serves as a key member of Starbucks senior leadership team.
GOOD: As an industry leader, what most influenced you on the road to your current position?
Adam Brotman: For me, I was mostly influenced (inspired, really) by the era of the late 1990’s/early 2000’s, when I was the CEO of Play Network, a provider of B2B digital music services. Even though I was an entrepreneur in the B2B space, I was absolutely mesmerized by consumers’ adoption of digital music and the dawning of blogging, podcasting, YouTube, mp3.com, etc.
Today, we would call this mobile and social, but back then we thought of it as “Web 2.0” or “UGC.” I’m talking those early days of rickety MP3 players and then the first generation iPods. It really opened my eyes to what was possible in terms of consumers and publishers alike putting content up on the web, allowing anyone to share and interact with content. That time from 1999-2004 was a fascinating time and an era that really led me to pursue the current role that I have at Starbucks where I could have an impact in mobile and social.
GOOD: What type of data and technology would you consider the most valuable to your company?
AB: What’s most valuable to Starbucks is understanding exactly how customers are interacting with us. From this data, we can deliver highly personalized and relevant communications and offerings for our customers and make the Starbucks experience that much better for them. What’s relevant transcends not just our product offerings, but also how we run our business and where we prioritize our community efforts. We’re still learning how to best use this data for our customers’ benefit, and by no means do we have this all figured out.
GOOD: How has data changed the way you can interact with customers and improved your customer service?
AB: One way is that it’s made our My Starbucks Rewards loyalty program all the more relevant and meaningful to our customers. Through My Starbucks Rewards, we are able to tailor messages and offers to our customers, and we are also able to receive feedback from them. Knowing what is most important to them helps us make customer-centric decisions and enables us to deliver a product roadmap that is relevant to their wants and needs.
GOOD: What are the qualities and/or skill sets that you believe future successful leaders will need to have?
AB: First and foremost, future leaders have to be multi-dimensional creative thinkers – meaning that they are powerful communicators, collaborators and can accomplish things in the digital world with the same passion and vigor as the physical world. A future leader is someone who can get things done creatively and doesn’t ignore the digital world, but also doesn’t rely solely on it. They are resourceful with a global perspective in mind.
GOOD: What is your greatest hope for how your work can influence positive change in our world?
AB: Starbucks is a company committed to balancing a social conscience with delivering a profit. As we have shown with our Create Jobs for USA initiative and our Indivisible campaign this summer, we continue to push the envelope on small business empowerment and job creation. We are thrilled to be aligned with like-minded organizations, and our relationship with Square is a testament of that. Square provides entrepreneurs essential tools to jumpstart their business while providing existing small companies access to new customers. This development can play a vital role in spurring small business growth and hiring, which we believe continue to be one of our country’s most important issues, and I am thrilled to see the role that digital at Starbucks has played in this arena.
GOOD: What’s one surprising fact that people should know about your company?
AB: Starbucks recently reduced its energy consumption by replacing incandescent and halogen lighting with more efficient LED lighting in more than 7,000 stores in Canada, China, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States. In doing so, we have seen an average 7 percent decrease in our stores' electricity consumption.
Read more from leaders like Brotman at Figures of Progress, including interviews with Rachel Sterne, CIO of the city of New York; Oliver Hurst-Hiller, CTO of Donorschoose.org; and Nathan Blecharczyk, Co-founder of Airbnb.