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This is the future of ordering your Starbucks coffee

Daniel Roberts
Senior Writer

At its annual shareholders meeting on Wednesday—longtime Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz’s final shareholders meeting as CEO—Starbucks (SBUX) spent a lot of time talking tech.

The company has been pushing its technology for a while now, such as video screens that show your barista at some Starbucks drive-thru lanes, and the popularity and ease of its mobile ordering app. (Last year, an average 7 million Starbucks customers per month ordered through the mobile app; the company predicted that just a few years from now, as much as 50% of its ordering might come from smartphones.)

Starbucks began testing a new feature on the mobile app, voice ordering, a few months ago. But for now, it has only rolled out the feature to a trial run of 100,000 customers.

At its shareholders meeting, Starbucks announced its voice-ordering feature will go nationwide by the end of this year.

In a pre-shot video, a customer demonstrated the voice-ordering feature. Her order was far from simple. She says: “Double upside down macchiato half decaf with room and a splash of cream in a grande cup.” The app responds by showing text to confirm her order, and the app nails it perfectly. It is admittedly impressive.

Starbucks also announced it will soon roll out a similar voice-ordering feature through Amazon Alexa, as well as voice-ordering in Ford cars equipped with the automaker’s SYNC 3 entertainment system.

Outgoing Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz (AP)

“It only takes a little imagination to think about where conversational ordering will go next,” Starbucks CTO Gerri Martin-Flickinger said. She added that the opportunity to add voice-enabled ordering on other platforms is “intriguing” to the company.

If voice-ordering via smartphone, Alexa, or car isn’t compelling enough, Starbucks also announced that it will soon allow customers to give someone a Starbucks gift card quickly and easily inside a text-message conversation.

Howard Schultz has been saying for at least two years now that Starbucks is a technology company, and while some have scoffed at the claim, new and convenient functions like these give it a lot more credibility.

Daniel Roberts is a writer at Yahoo Finance, covering sports business, technology, and coffee. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite.

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