I spent the week in Amsterdam last week. It was unseasonably warm for October with heat advisories the day before I arrived, the day of the TCS Amsterdam Marathon. It was my first time in the city and, of course, I got a little bit of time shopping in the Bloemenmarkt - or as I’ll refer to it - DTC Alley.
Shops line the Heilegweg alley - from Sabon and Kiehl’s to Samsonite. Allsaints, a Lion Capital-backed brand, is just across from Scotch and Soda, is situated next to Nespresso.
The shops on Heilegweg share a common trait - they bring the best of online and offline together. They provide tactile experiences that overwhelm the 5 senses and excite you. They create journeys that make you discover more about the brand and craft a story piece by piece in thoughtfully-designed showrooms. They’re staffed with expert sellers who treat you like a person and take time to get to know you. Though they’re owned and operated by disparate companies - from global corporations like Nestle to private equity firms and venture capital - they are united by a new retail playbook.
Among those on DTC Alley, Nespresso’s model is unique. While they’re a direct-to-consumer brand with cache, they’re not just another storefront. For those unfamiliar, the Nestle-owned brand has spent the past two decades developing a cult-like following among coffee snobs and the Starbucks frequenter-alike. By providing a range of machines that span from hundreds to thousands of dollars they are generally accessible to the entire range of customers that may want to shift their purchasing habits from coffee out-of-home to coffee in-home.
Earlier this year for Amazon Prime day I purchased a Nespresso VertuoPlus - one of the more premium machines in the range at a $220 price point. Initially, I was hooked by the savings on the Prime Day special. I already had a nearly 10-year-old Tassimo pod machine that I never used, but at a nearly 50% savings, I figured having one for the novelty alone to review for the podcast would be worth the investment. It arrived on my doorstep within 18 hours and I had coffee, and the machine, in hand while I was still very excited about the purchase. The first cup I brewed was outstanding - a medium blend they call “Aflorazio”. It was exquisite and looked beautiful with a frothy foam that sits atop the brew.
Over the past 5 months of ownership, I have cut my Starbucks spending down EIGHTY PERCENT of what it once was. I was a daily frequenter of Starbucks - shamefully my family spent nearly $4,500 at the chain last year. This year I’m on track to nearly halve that, and the savings will increase next year dramatically. I personally have gone from spending $4.50 on average for an iced coffee to $1.09 per pod on Nespresso. I arguably enjoy better coffee, too, now that I make it at home. A good portion of my spend at Starbucks was on food items purchased, as well, and that spending has all but vanished as I’ve channel-shifted to purchasing at home.
I’ve become more adventurous in my coffee consumption, trying different blends, and becoming very interested in the Single Origin offerings from Zimbabwe, Mexico, and Columbia.
Eventually, I filled a bag 5.5lb full of used pods and it was time to recycle them. I found that it was effortless to drop the bag into the UPS drop box near my office in downtown West Palm Beach. Yesterday when I made my third trip to the UPS box with another 5+lb return bag it dawned on me that I have reduced my waste footprint dramatically since becoming a customer of Nespresso. Where I once had a plastic lid, cup, and straw that went to waste once, sometimes twice per day, I now had a fully recyclable food-grade aluminum container that was being returned to the manufacturer for reuse. I also have become accustomed to carrying my own washable coffee thermos which has undoubtedly helped reduce my footprint further.
The digital experience of buying coffee is great - primarily performed through a native app on my Pixel 3XL. The Nespresso app never pushes me notifications, I rarely remember that I even have it until it’s time to reorder. I receive marketing emails less than once per week as far as I can tell. I never feel bothered by them and this heightens the experience and intrigues me when I eventually do get marketing or communication from them. I take notice when I see Lin Manuel-Miranda and George Clooney chatting about the Reviving Origins program on the Youtube preroll ads.
I have moved from customer to ardent fan by getting an arguably better experience, for less money, with a smaller carbon footprint, that I feel good about and want to share with others.
And so here I am, in mid-October, standing in a Nespresso store in Amsterdam and I see the real-life embodiment of all that is the Nespresso brand, and it heightens my understanding of what they’ve done even more. They’re truly direct-to-consumer and their brick and mortar presence is bringing the experience of electrons and ones-and-zeros into atoms and molecules - real, true, life and in technicolor.
The color palette is familiar to those who have purchased from Nespresso recently - jewel-toned boxes line the walls organized by hue, saturation, and lightness. If you’ve spent time as a graphic designer in your career or have any tendencies that are obsessive or compulsive as I do, it’s extremely pleasing. Their displays and shelves are organized like a master-class in flat-lay photography. In the window display is a Dutch-style commuter bike, made entirely from recycled Nespresso aluminum.
Now they’re just showing off.
They offer tastings. They describe the background and origins of the beans and the workers who harvest. They call out flavor notes and profiles as a master sommelier would - like a coffee-infused James Suckling.
It was in this moment that I had the realization that my Prime Day purchase altered my consumer behavior dramatically - I had moved from a Starbucks customer with a $4,500 annual spend - to a Nespresso brand loyalist. IN FIVE MONTHS.
I know that there are those with reservations and criticisms of Nestle and their global impact. I share many of those reservations. But from a customer experience and customer demand perspective Nespresso is hitting every checkbox:
- Social Responsibility
- Brick and Mortar
- Social Media
- Brand Story
Add five checkboxes in the “experience” column. Every single part of my engagement with Nespresso is amazing. From order to delivery is typically 48 hours. The waste is 100% recyclable. I feel like a better person by spending with Nespresso over Starbucks. As a customer, the opportunity here is huge.
This makes me wonder - how else can I shift my purchase behavior to get a better experience that makes me feel better about my impact on the world while still participating as a consumer, but more mindfully?
So my thoughts now turn to another Amsterdam-native brand who recently launched a rental business, of which I’m now a customer. Scotch and Soda recently unveiled their launch of Scotch Select, a rental business. For $99 USD per month, you can borrow 3 items from a curated, seasonal catalog. Shipping is covered both ways, and you can keep as few as 8 items in your virtual ‘closet’ to borrow at any one time, while also prioritizing certain pieces to take out first.
A lot of what we’ve covered recently on Future Commerce has been about recognizing and identifying a problem. I’m excited to start telling the story of positive engagement where brands are living up to ideals and helping deliver the next generation of customer experience in a sustainable and mindful way.
In January we’ll be releasing our first report - 100 Brands to Watch - where we’ll rate brands like Nespresso and Scotch & Soda. Our report will cover many factors and it’s our aim to be fully transparent about our rating and selection. We’ll feature brands curated by our community of Alumni, prior guests on the podcast, and you, our Insiders.
So our question to you has two parts - what was the last thing you bought that made you happy? And how did you discover that brand? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your thoughts to us. We’d love to hear from you.
Keep dreaming of a future we can all be proud of.