Disrupt and Redirect: What Starbucks Can Teach B2B Marketers

6 minute read

Team Kapost

As I sit at Starbucks for long hours writing B2B marketing content, I observe ever-changing customer behavior.

Starbucks, with its international scale, can shift one element in their 24,000+ retail environments and elicit significant behavioral change among customers, leading to increased revenue, improved customer service, and overall business improvement.

Starbucks sparks most of these behavioral changes using the “disrupt and redirect” model, and all B2B professionals can learn something from this technique.


RELATED CONTENT: Behavioral Psychology in the Disruptive Marketing Economy

Starbucks: Your Virtual Office

Starbucks’ business objectives have shifted as the company has grown. When Starbucks was just starting to expand across the U.S. in the late 1980s, the company encouraged customers to sit in their stores for as long as possible and use their local Starbucks as a “virtual office” and social environment.

The company’s strategy was to give customers a place to sit for hours drinking coffee, eating, and working on their computers, continually adding to Starbucks’ revenue.

It was common to observe people sitting at a Starbucks table with their computer for an entire morning or the whole day, often five days a week, drinking just one cup of coffee. Store managers and employees didn’t seem to mind. These customers were the “office regulars.”


RELATED CONTENT: “Leaning in” to Drive Behavioral Change in B2B Buyers

Moving Away from the “Office” Mentality

In my local Starbucks (which opened in 2015) and other newer locations, I’ve noticed two main changes:

  1. The power outlets are underneath hard benches, and aren’t as accessible. To keep a computer or mobile device charged, you have to crawl on the floor to find the outlet. Not the easiest thing to do in a skirt!
  2. You have to sign in to use the WiFi and the system bumps you off the Internet every two hours, forcing you to sign in again.

Both the outlet placement and the WiFi automatic sign-out are examples of the “disrupt” portion of the “disrupt and redirect” model that Starbucks is using to realign customer behavior with the company’s updated business goals.

The “Disrupt and Redirect” Model for Behavioral Change


Starbucks has focused on two small “disruptions”—inconvenient outlet location and gated WiFi access—to elicit a behavioral change that better fits its evolving business goals. By encouraging customers not to stay as long, each Starbucks store frees up seats for new customers, which boosts revenue.


The real “redirect” at play here is the moment of pause when a customer gets booted off the WiFi and has to sign in again. This disruption reminds the customer that they’ve already spent two hours at Starbucks, and they’re more likely to:

  • Look up from their computer
  • Buy another coffee or a snack
  • Get up to use the restroom or make a phone call
  • Decide it’s time to wrap up and leave Starbucks

In short, the disruption of having to sign in to the WiFi again leads the customer to think about their current behavior and goals for their time at Starbucks. This can lead to increased revenue, whether the customer decides to buy something else or leaves the store and frees up a seat for a new customer.

Of course, the determined “virtual office” user may renew their WiFi without missing a beat, but it’s the moment of pause that allows for a possible redirect.

Pushing “Redirect” Further

Here are a few other ways Starbucks could use the WiFi pop-up screen to further a behavior redirect, possibly increasing revenue even more.

  • Rotating pictures of the “beverage of the month”
  • Inviting customers to try a new food product
  • Asking customers to select the musician or album they prefer, out of four choices

Applying “Disrupt and Redirect” to B2B Marketing

These questions will help you discover the most effective “disrupt” action to take in order to reach your desired “redirect” and ultimate business goal.

1. What Customer Behavior Do You Want to Change?


  • You want prospective customers to purchase your product by the third touchpoint
  • You want existing customers to adopt software X upon first use
  • You want existing customers to try one new service per year

2. What Is Your Goal?


  • To increase revenues by $X
  • To improve new customer acquisition by X%
  • To raise operating capital by $X
  • To increase customer satisfaction by one point in quarterly survey rating

3. Where Can You “Disrupt” the Buyer’s Journey?

Let’s say that your goal is to get prospects to purchase your product by the third touchpoint.

In order for the customer to buy by the third touchpoint, the first and second touchpoint have to be very positive. With that in mind, what can be disrupted to make these first two touch points stand out and improve your ROI?

Here are some examples of disruptions that could make the difference to your prospect:

  • Instead of having sales reps send an email, have them schedule an in-person meeting with the prospect
  • Change how the product story is told
  • Shift the channels used for each touchpoint (email to phone call, etc.)

Think of one disruption that could increase the likelihood that your customer will get what they need, when they need it, and have a very positive experience with your first two touchpoints.

4. What Is Your Desired “Redirect”?

How much of a pause will your prospect need before making the decision to buy your product on the third touchpoint?

Let’s say you make a change to the first touchpoint. Historically, email is touchpoint #1, but what if you used a text message or customized phone call? Or something outrageous, like delivering a singing telegram to your prospect about the product’s benefits and features?

A prospect would certainly be surprised by this action (it’s not business as usual), which will probably make them pause for a moment to think it over. This is the “redirect,” and it’s where the prospect is the most likely to change their behavior (and hopefully choose to buy from you!).

Starbucks’ use of the “disrupt and redirect” model for behavioral change can apply to B2B marketing in a myriad of ways. What can you “disrupt” to improve your organization’s revenue and marketing content ROI?

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