The Week in Geek: How Starbucks and Amazon are becoming more alike

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Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz at the company’s annual shareholders meeting this week. Starbucks announced several new tech-driven programs at the meeting. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

Starbucks and Amazon, two of Seattle’s iconic corporate giants, started off very different from each other. At heart, Starbucks is a chain of coffee stores, and Amazon is an e-commerce company. But they’re slowly and steadily becoming … well, more alike.

In this episode of the Week in Geek podcast, we recap the big news of the week from Starbucks and Amazon, and end up discussing how the two companies are moving toward the same model: a hybrid of digital sales and brick-and-mortar retail operations.

For example, Starbucks announced several new tech-driven features at its annual shareholders meeting this week, including an Alexa-powered ordering service that solves the age-old problem of having to speak to a human being to order coffee. It’s the latest extension of the company’s successful Mobile Order & Pay service.

Also this week, Amazon unveiled its latest mobile feature, a service called Outfit Compare, which lets users upload pictures of themselves in different clothes, for review by fashion experts. GeekWire reporter Monica Nickelsburg was unimpressed with the advice, but the feature is an example of how Amazon can make new inroads vs. traditional retailers. If people use the Amazon app for fashion advice in shopping mall dressing rooms, they’ll be just a few taps away from comparing prices and ordering clothes from Amazon instead.

Meanwhile, the online giant is continuing its steady expansion into brick-and-mortar retail with the impending debut of its first AmazonFresh Pickup sites in Seattle.

This convergence of the Starbucks and Amazon strategies left GeekWire editor Todd Bishop jokingly speculating what would it look like if the companies actually merged. Would they be Starmazon? Or maybe Amabucks?

On another note, Amazon has publicly responded to a lawsuit over Chime, its AWS video messaging platform. They’re being sued by CafeX, a company with a platform that does pretty much same thing. And happens to also be called Chime. What a coincidence! Amazon says it was unaware of the other service.

Plus, we introduce our new segment: The Random Channel. Here’s a teaser:

Listen to the podcast above for all that fun, or download it as an MP3.

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