Now, if the purchaser of the cup of coffee paid with a debit card and was identified as the holder of a Starbucks rewards card, but this was the first time she's used the card for, say, 10 days, and she added an extra shot of espresso and extra sugar, maybe she's just getting over a cold.
What could Starbucks do? Let's send a coupon for a cold remedy to her smartphone and, when she gets off the bus and is passing the smart sign in a "companion" store (because we know where the cup is), we'll flash an ad for a shop where she can buy the medicine.
Track enough customers and you might figure out that there's a hot spot of customers where you should build a new Starbucks. What's that insight worth?
Ah, you might be saying, that's an awfully large amount of work to leverage just a small number of your customers, but if the cost is just a few cents for the cup and next to nothing for the data analysis and processing, why wouldn't you do it?
When "Internetizing" things becomes trivially cheap to do and drives competitiveness up a few notches, you'll have no choice. You'll collect and analyze not just Big Data but Huge Data and store it and re-analyze it repeatedly, and in the end companies like Starbucks will know as much about your coffee drinking and your routine as your significant other, your doctor, your accountant, and your analyst combined. Maybe more.
And the result will be a perfect cup of coffee that stays hot, that's easy to buy and that makes you committed to Starbucks. Who wouldn't want that?
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.