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VRIO Analysis of Starbucks Coffee

Starbucks VRIO Analysis

Starbucks is a well known name in the world of coffee.  It has more than 35,000 stores operational globally as of 2023. The brand has achieved success through years of ethical business and by focusing on customer service and product quality. The main reason behind the success of Starbucks is differentiation. There are three important things that differentiate the brand from others.  First, it is the highest focus on product quality that makes Starbucks different from the others.  The brand serves only premium quality coffee to its customers globally. The second important factor is its focus on customer experience and the third is its unique marketing strategy. Starbucks had started its humble story from Seattle.

Today, it has spread globally to become an international brand critically acclaimed for quality coffee, excellent customer service and ethics.  This has also helped the brand build customer loyalty and grab the position of number one coffee brand in the market. Several of its strengths can be easily noticed right at the surface. This VRIO analysis presents a deeper analysis of the resources that have helped Starbucks generate sustainable competitive advantage. First, we have discussed the main strengths of the coffee brand and its most important resources and then their importance with regards to helping the brand create a sustainable competitive advantage.

Main strengths of Starbucks Coffee:

Strong brand image – Starbucks has a strong brand image that rests on three important pillars –  ethics, product quality and customer service. Its strong brand image is a result of its strong and continuous focus on quality, and customer service. It is also one of the most critical driver’s of the company’s global success.

Special flavours and quality of coffee – The brand is known best for its quality and various flavours of coffee it serves; main attraction for most customers. Through a large variety of flavors and coffee types, the company attracts customers from several different segments.

Customer service – Another important factor well known about Starbucks Coffee is its customer service. It has always maintained a strong focus on customer experience and strives to provide its customers a unique and outstanding instore experience.

Store environment – The customer friendly environment of the Starbucks stores is also a distinct feature of the brand which works to attract and retain customers. It has set up attractive stores throughout the globe in several markets including United States, which is its largest market. Its stores do not only drive sales but also play a critical role in terms of marketing.

Supply chain – A well managed supply chain allows Starbucks to source the best Cocoa from around the world.  Also, its main enabler of great quality, its supply chain plays a very special role in the successful operation of the brand worldwide.

Global presence – Another important strength of the brand is its global presence. Starbucks has more than 35,000 stores in 70 countries. The number of Starbucks stores has increased rapidly in recent years. Starbucks is reaching more and more customers worldwide through its large network of stores.


Strong brand image –  Yes, a strong brand image is a valuable resource that  helps at growing the customer base and plays a central role in terms of marketing. Brand image is a critical driver of growth for businesses. Starbucks has maintained a strong brand image through its continuous focus on product quality and customer experience. It is an innovative brand and has maintained a strong reputation in various markets globally.

Special flavours and quality of coffee –  Yes, a valuable resource for it is the primary reason that customers flock to Starbucks. The wide variety and superb quality of coffee is among the primary drivers of demand for Starbucks and helps in driving higher sales. Its focus on product quality has remained central to growth and helped the company achieve a leadership position in its sector.

Customer service –  Yes, a valuable resource that  complements the quality of Starbucks products and helps at customer retention. Customer experience is a critical driver of demand and helps set the brand as distinct from the others. Moreover, it is important for maintaining higher customer loyalty and sustaining demand.

Store environment – Yes, a valuable resource leading to increase in popularity and good for customer retention. Its store environment is critical for marketing and brand image also.

Supply chain –  Yes, a highly valuable resource that  helps source good quality raw material and retain the quality of products. The supply chain has a critical role in terms of operational success of a brand and its competitive edge. Without a strong supply chain, it is difficult to sustain the other sources of competitive advantage the company has achieved.

Global presence –  Yes, a valuable resource that makes Starbucks more competitive and stronger than competing brands. Starbucks reaches millions of customers worldwide through its large network of stores globally. The company has successfully grown its customer base through a large network of stores.


Strong brand image –  Rare and a big challenge for the competing brands. It is among the most critical sources of competitive advantage for the brand since it also sustains the other advantages the company has gained. Strong brand image has a critical role in terms of marketing and growth. It is difficult for other brands to challenges the strong reputation that Starbucks has achieved.

Special flavours and quality of coffee –  Yes, significant investment goes into procurement and then creation of special flavours. While it is a costly procedure to source special flavor and quality of coffee, it is also the main reason that Starbucks sells only premium quality products. However, all brands do not sell premkium priced coffee and while it will add supply chain related costs fo rival businesses, achieving special sources for higher quality coffee is aslo difficult because of scarcity of resources.

Customer service –   Can be achieved by other firms too. However, requires investment in staff training and special focus. Customer service is a critical driver of popularity and customer loyalty but also requires critical focus. Most businesses are however, providing gtheir staff the trainign and required resources to offer superior quality service to customers and so this capability is not so rare.

Store environment – Can be achieved by other firms too. However, requires investment in store make up, staff training and special focus. While store environment can be a critical factor in terms of marketing and demand, the kind of set up achieved by a premium brand like Starbucks is somewhat rare.

Supply chain – Difficult to achieve for others because requires both investment and strategy.

Global presence –  Difficult to achieve for others because of the significant financial investment involved.


Strong brand image –  Difficult to imitate, requires heavy focus upon customer service, product innovation, supply chain integration, etc.

Special flavours and quality of coffee –  Difficult to imitate because of the prices and procedure.

Customer service –  Somewhat difficult to imitate.

Store environment – Somewhat difficult to imitate.

Supply chain –  Difficult to imitate but possible in the long term.

Global presence – Difficult to imitate because of investment.


Strong brand image –  Yes

Special flavours and quality of coffee –  Yes, Starbucks’ flavours are the talk of the town and an important part of Starbucks’ marketing and customer retention strategy..

Customer service –  Yes, another important fact that has made Starbucks Popular.

Store environment – Yes, it is an important part of Starbucks’ marketing and customer retention strategy.

Supply chain – Yes, Starbucks sources 99% of its coffee ethically. Exceptional quality beans are sourced from around the world giving the brand an edge.

Global presence: Yes, Starbucks has maintained a strong network of more than 35,000 stores which plays a critical role in helping the brand grow its customer base and reach more and more customers worldwide.

ResourceValuableRareInimitableOrganizedCompetitive Advantage
Strong brand imageYesYESYesYes.

Competitive Advantage

Special flavours and quality of coffeeYesYesYesYesSustainable Competitive advantage
Customer serviceYesYesNoYesCompetitive parity
Store environmentYesYesNoYesRealized temporary Competitive advantage
Supply chainYesYesNo, but requires much investment and focusYesRealized temporary Competitive advantage
Global presenceYesYesYes, because requires heavy investmentYesRealized temporary Competitive advantage