Starbucks: mobile orders perk up, yet problems brewing

The mobile technology pioneered by Starbucks is making for business problems.

It is a variation of the law of unintended consequences: a company pushes a new technology and the successful it becomes, the bigger the problem it creates. In other words, faster, better and more convenient turns out to be none of the above.

It’s all about the mobile world.

You may have noticed – if you go to Starbucks– that an increasing number of customers have used mobile phones to order ahead. They walk in and – voila! – their latte or whatever is waiting.

That is, if there aren’t a mob of other mobile orders for the baristas to sort through.

And here’s the thing – Starbucks introduced the technology to make service more seamless, to make pick-up more convenient.

But a barrage of orders can back up, leaving walk-in customers to pool up at the counter or – worse, from the business perspective – walk away without waiting for their order.

As Business Insider put it, "Starbucks' digital ordering platform has been one of the company's crown jewels."

Mobile orders accounted for 7 percent of the total last quarter – more than twice the share of a year ago. More than a quarter of U.S. customers pay with a mobile device.

You’d think that something that speeded up customer service, that greased the skids for delivery of the product, should be a real bonus for a business. And on one hand, Starbucks now has 1,200 stores where 20 percent of the sales volume is coming from mobile – twice what it was a month ago.

Success, right?

Yet, paradoxically, Starbucks has also seen a decline in customer traffic – partly because of problems with the mobile system, Business Insider reports.

Shares of Starbucks on Wall Street dropped after the company trimmed its forecast for profits.