Starbucks vs. Dunkin' Donuts

With billions in sales annually, coffee industry giants Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts have demonstrated their ability to push their product in our caffeine-driven society. But when it comes to harnessing the power of the web to cultivate community around their brands, what are these two superstars doing to ensure that they keep and inspire loyalty among their followers, especially in the face of mounting competition between each other as well as increasing threats from newer players such as McDonald’s? Fame Foundry’s agents weigh in below:
  • The Architect

    Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts’ approaches to creating meaningful community around their brands and extending their companies beyond a typical retail website is as different as their stores. Both websites have menus, nutrition information, online stores, store locators and social links -- the bare necessities for brands of this nature. The similarities end there. Dunkin' Donuts' version of extending itself beyond the walls of its stores is reminiscent of old gimmicks and half-hearted community-building ploys. There's a healthy version of its menu, links to a running site, some promos and a contest, and then we’re done. Dunkin' Donuts provides no opportunity for its fans to be a part of its website in any meaningful way. Starbucks has done better in their attempts. Noteworthy is the idea of improving the company with your ideas -- something that speaks to core fans. If you love the green Starbucks splash stick, then you should know it was developed in this way. The website allows visitors to share ideas, vote on ideas submitted by others and see which ideas have received the strongest response. It promotes community by encouraging visitors to play a part in improving the brand they love through their own opinions and innovations. Second to this, there’s a blog that’s halfway worth subscribing to if you’re an ultra fan. And while it is not exactly groundbreaking, it has a genuine appeal and seems to keep a decent personal touch to it with little of the usual corporate interference on the surface. Introducing new conveniences, products and free offers allows the blog to be something worth subscribing to for core users and brand evangelists. In addition, Starbucks offers a place for those willing to contribute to their causes. It’s not terribly engaging, but having a directory of people bound to stores and allowing for conversation within each store is a worthwhile effort. It needs more work in order to truly establish the store as a gateway to the local community.
  • The Craftsman

    A website should not only be an extension of a retail store, but it should also be the gathering place for your brand's community of followers. It's important to give that community a great experience when they visit your site, and design plays an integral role in that experience. Dunkin' Donuts and Starbucks handle this experience in very different ways, and both leave much to be desired. Let's start with Dunkin' Donuts. It is quite clear that the goal of this site is to push products. The first thing that I notice is the horrible Photoshop work on the home page. It's a collage of poorly photographed and cut out cups, beans and other products. It's obvious that none of the elements ever appeared together naturally. With coffee beans the size of walnuts and cups the size of buckets, the scale is so ridiculous that the whole thing comes off as cheesy and poorly produced. There is a lot of movement and visual stimulation on the home page, including pop-up menus, enlarging images and a hot pink drop-down menu. It seems that at any moment a man wanting to guess my weight or swallow a sword could jump out from behind that burlap sack. These elements are over the top and a detriment to the functionality, as the page takes several seconds to load. The navigation is passable, but there is a lot going on. First you have the main navigation with drop-down menus. Above that you have a secondary navigation that is one of the smallest I have ever seen at only six pixels. I would think that a store finder and franchising information warrants a larger size. And above in the upper right corner there are 4 graphics that appear to be buttons but do nothing when clicked or hovered over, creating confusion. Secondary pages on the site are cleaner, but there are still some alignment and spacing problems, and an overall lack of design consistency makes the site look thrown together. While some pages look pretty good, others look quite bad. On any given page there are several fonts and many colors, causing it to look very busy. Starbucks' website is in stark contrast to the Dunkin' Donuts site. It's clean and minimalist in a way that feels great on the home page, but once you dig into the site, the pages become bland and boring. The home page immediately gives you hierarchy with a large, interactive feature that is simple to navigate. Below that are three areas that funnel traffic with a minimal navigation system. The light background helps the warm, rich imagery pop, creating terrific contrast. Nothing is in your face or obtrusive. It's subtle and functional -- just what you'd expect from a brand like Starbucks. The secondary pages aren't nearly as strong as the home page. The primary and secondary navigation are minimal to the point of being boring. The leading on the navigation and body text is tight and should be expanded. The subtle drop shadow on the top of the canvas area makes that area appear as a frame and does nothing to enhance the page. Columns are narrow, and content feels cramped. There is wasted real estate under a poorly designed search bar which features a "go" button -- none of which feels like what you would expect from Starbucks. There is also a lot of inconsistency from page to page, especially in the way their products and offerings are displayed, which makes the browsing experience feel disjointed. Both sites have work to be done and leave me feeling disappointed. I expect better from these two captains of the coffee industry. While Dunkin' Donuts is over the top with its bright colors and flashy animation, Starbucks doesn't go far enough with its neutral colors and boring framework. Like a cup of coffee that's too strong or too weak, these sites need to find the perfect brew.
  • The Developer

    Anyone who has studied the metrics on their own website knows that getting people past the front page is a big deal, getting them to stay longer is even a bigger deal, and having someone feel that your site is worthwhile enough to come back is the ultimate score. Today's websites are as much about visitors consuming information, collaborating and interacting as a community as they are about selling a product or service.Interestingly, when comparing Dunkin' Donuts to Starbucks, it is clear that both companies have attempted to make their sites into something more than just a reproduction of their retail storefronts. They both have used various methods to try to capitalize on the enthusiasm of their customers. Dunkin' Donuts offers a feature that allows you to create your own donut, while Starbucks has launched a number of social websites that range from promoting specific product lines to advocating social change to soliciting suggestions to make your Starbucks better. Overall, Starbucks does a better job of providing compelling reasons to visit the site. However, both make the perplexing mistake of burying the content rather than bringing it to the forefront. Dunkin' buries these nuggets in favor of button graphics and forces visitors to hunt to find something interesting. Starbucks hides a single text link for each of their social sites below their Flash movie that gets in the way of finding something more useful. Both companies have very active Facebook pages with posts happening every few minutes -- not that you would know this by looking at the front page of their site. What's that you say? The goal is to sell product? Well, I have a question in return: Isn't it necessary to drive traffic to your site in order to sell products online? If there are 4.5 million fans on Starbucks' Facebook page posting every couple of minutes, you do the math. I'll just hold off on returning to these websites until either company gives me a reason to.