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Directing Costa Coffee’s customers to the nearest hot cup of coffee with Google Maps Platform

May 26, 2022
Gordon Lucas

Global Head of Digital Engineering at Costa Coffee

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Editor’s note: Gordon Lucas, Global Head of Digital Engineering at Costa Coffee, explains how Google Maps Platform helps direct customers to each of its 4,000 plus Costa Coffee shops across the world, as well as streamline payments, and optimize deliveries.

When brothers Sergio and Bruno Costa opened the first Costa Coffee in central London in 1971, they relied on word of mouth to grow trade. Personal recommendations encouraged people who lived and worked locally to visit the coffee shop and sample what became (and still remains) our signature blend coffee, Mocha Italia.  

Fast forward 50 years and we have more than 4,000 coffee shops spread over 31 countries. To make it as easy as possible for our global customers to pick up a Mocha Italia, a Costa Americano, or any other Costa Coffee product wherever we operate, we decided to create a visual app. We wanted the app to help customers across the world find their most convenient eat-in, takeaway, drive-thru, partner store, or delivery platform, and highlight which services are available and at what times.


Enhancing the customer experience with intelligent maps 

We were already using Google Maps Platform products on our website to provide our customers with a basic store locator service. So when we launched our mobile app in 2017, we added more interactive geospatial features to make our customers’ journeys quicker and easier. 

We chose to enhance our existing Google Maps Platform solution because our developers enjoyed using it. Google Maps Platform offered all the capabilities we needed to boost our solutions, and we were excited to see how we’d be able to leverage geospatial data to improve the experience of our customers.


Our Google Cloud Premier Partner, Snowdrop Solutions, supported us in deploying all our requirements so the app’s new features could be rolled out globally. We wanted  to direct pedestrians and vehicles to standalone Costa Coffee shops and kiosks in supermarkets and gas stations. We also wanted a dynamic map feature to highlight which locations offered click-and-collect, drive-thru, and delivery services. We then wanted to link these services to our online payments systems, seamlessly integrating our transaction process to make it as easy as possible for our customers.

To that end, we used the Maps Static API to embed maps within our app, and the Geocoding API to convert addresses into coordinates to create markers on our maps. We also use the Places API to allow customers to search for a Costa Coffee facility based on their location. 

A new route for customer satisfaction

We had one issue when it came to locating Costa Coffee shops, however. We noticed that some customers were selecting the wrong store to collect orders. Fortunately, Google Maps Platform provided a quick fix that solved this issue. We updated the service to provide customers with a map of their collection point upon receipt of their order, remindIng them which store to collect from. A tweak like adding a map to a receipt improves customer satisfaction. The drop in calls to our customer service is testimony to this.


Geospatial intelligence became invaluable in the pandemic

We had to adjust our service when the pandemic hit and Google Maps Platform was again instrumental in helping us. Because we had to comply with unique lockdown measures and travel restrictions across different locations, it could be challenging for our customers to stay up-to-date on the changing opening times and service guidelines of our shops. So we used Google Maps Platform Places API to show our customers which nearby stores, click-and-collect outlets, or drive-thrus were open, and when, during lockdowns.

Integrating this with our mobile ordering system also enabled us to promote COVID-safe contactless payments. Customers can locate a Costa Coffee shop, select, order, purchase, and collect their order or have it delivered to their cars without the need for any human contact. This reduces service wait times and minimizes the risk of transmission between customers and baristas. It also makes our employees feel more safe at work.


Geospatial data optimizes our entire operation

When the lockdown ended, our in-app order data showed a spike in demand, illustrating how much our customers miss their Costa Coffee experience. This data not only helps us to identify demand, it lets us track user preferences, informs where to direct supplies to meet a raised demand, and creates more accurate forecasts. This data can also help us manage costs. 

Geospatial intelligence is also used to improve the experience of customers, from when they first look to order a cappuccino to when they arrive at the shop to enjoy it. We are using geomarketing to surface local offers. Say a Costa Coffee shop is trialing a new beverage, a pop-up can suggest users of our app try it next time they’re nearby.

Google Maps Platform has become integral to our digital operations. New features and capabilities of Google Maps Platform products have allowed us to continue innovating. The Costa Coffee footprint now spreads physically and digitally around the globe, and with the help of Google Maps Platform we can still offer the same tailored personal service that spurred the initial success of the Costa Brothers 50 years ago.

For more information on Google Maps Platform, visit our website.
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