coffee espresso in car showroom

How coffee became a tool for selling clothes and cars

Ben Mitchell chats with Ozan Akcay and Go Miyazaki of VooStore in Berlin about how serving coffee in-store can be leveraged by businesses to boost sales and brand loyalty.

If you’re a cycling enthusiast, there are more than enough reasons to visit the Rapha store in central London.

The slick interior houses rails of colourful cycling gear, from bib shorts and long-sleeve jerseys; it has a comfortable, spacious changing room; and its staff are friendly, knowledgeable, and ready to answer all your questions with a smile.

It also serves coffee.

Rapha’s in-store cafés, which form the centrepiece of their Clubhouses, have become an important part of creating a community around the business and giving customers an additional reason to visit. They serve high-quality coffee from Colonna – a UK specialty roastery – and for those who can’t get enough, they also sell bags of it online.

Rapha isn’t the only brand to do this. Serving coffee in-store has become increasingly integral to businesses in almost every sector, from banks to car dealerships to high-street clothes shops. In most cases, it provides a relaxed, welcoming atmosphere, drawing customers in and encouraging them to stick around for longer.

Ozan Akcay is the CEO of VooStore, a fashion, accessories, homewares, books, and zines space in Berlin. In addition to a deli, which sells wine, snacks, and other drinks, he explains that serving coffee in-store has always been an essential part of the company.

“It was purely for the community,” he says. “Even now, if you compare how much we are making out of this coffee space, it is very very small compared to the fashion side of the business. But it gives people a place to come back to every now and then and makes them feel comfortable because, especially with the regular customers who live around the neighbourhood, we don’t expect them to come over and spend €300-500 every few days.

“However, they do come in, hang out, chat to the staff, have a coffee, and have a snack. They love spending time here. It kind of makes them feel at home and it creates loyalty in an organic way.”

serving coffee in-store clothes shop

The benefits of serving coffee in-store

Serving coffee in-store to customers, whether they are waiting, taking a break, or browsing products, can be a great value addition.

According to a 2022 study by researchers at the University of South Florida, consuming an average cup of coffee (25-200mg of caffeine) enhances the perception of product features which, in turn, increases customer purchase intentions.

As part of the study, half of the customers at a retail store were given coffee and the other half received decaf coffee or water. Researchers found that the caffeine group “spent significantly more money and bought a higher number of items than those who drank decaf or water”.

What’s more, the study found that the caffeine group bought more hedonic and luxury items, such as fashion, travel, and decor, but for more functional products, such as kitchen utensils, there was very little difference between the groups. This highlights the importance of serving coffee in-store in attracting and retaining customers in certain sectors.

According to the manager of Voo Deli, Go Miyazaki, coffee can also help increase customer dwell time and draw in individuals who may not have otherwise paid attention to the brand. “Coffee people and fashion people are quite similar because they have more curiosity about taste, appearance, atmosphere, and community,” he says.

The benefits don’t end there. Depending on the coffee and the way it is served, it can also boost overall brand perception. For example, Bugatti, a luxury sports car company, serves a £50 espresso from fibreglass cups at its UK dealership. This is a great opportunity not only to reinforce brand identity, but also for Bugatti to give customers a sense of being part of an “exclusive” club.

serving coffee in-store

Meeting customer expectations

The benefits of serving coffee in-store are plain to see. However, before businesses dive into it, there are a few aspects to consider.

First is to ensure the quality of coffee aligns with the customers’ expectations of the brand. As in the case of Bugatti, customers will generally expect every element of the journey to buying a car to be seamless and of exceptional quality. If not, it can feel jarring and at odds with the overall perception of the brand.

As Go points out, receiving a cup of instant coffee in a luxury clothes store conveys a sense of pure financial intent. “As a luxury fashion retailer, the coffee has to be good, the food has to be good – everything has to be good,” he says.

Ensuring everything Voo does stays on-brand is what Ozan believes is part of the key to its success. “If you were to come here seven or eight years ago, the selection would be completely different, but the concept that you get from the store as a customer will be the same,” he says.

It’s also important to think about the way the coffee in-store will be served. Rapha opts for a barista-run espresso bar as part of its offerings. However, it also charges customers accordingly by pricing its coffees at the market average for a cup.

For smaller companies and those that want to either save on the cost of a barista, superautomatic coffee machines, such as the Carimali SilverAce, are a smart choice. These enable businesses to serve a wide range of high-quality coffees that align with customer expectations without relying on the hiring and training of staff to run them.

Whichever approach works best, what’s clear is that serving coffee in-store to customers in-store can be a valuable addition to any business, offering benefits that extend beyond simply providing a caffeinated beverage. By leveraging coffee as a tool to enhance the customer experience, businesses can boost sales, build brand loyalty, and shape their brand’s identity around a tight-knit community.

How coffee became a tool for selling clothes and cars

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