The new Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Shanghai features an augmented reality (AR) activity for customers that will blend the experiences of shopping online and in-store, according to a press release.

The AR experience–which can be accessed through the roastery’s digital web app platform or on Alibaba’s Taobao app–acts as sort of a virtual tour guide for customers, explaining the different steps of the coffee-making process. By pointing their smartphone at a piece of equipment, for example, the app will explain how coffee is processed in that machine, the press release said.

SEE: Virtual and augmented reality policy (Tech Pro Research)

If a customer doesn’t have the application downloaded, or access to the web app, they can still scan QR codes located around the roaster for more information.

By using the AR experience, customers can also unlock virtual badges and a roastery photo filter to showcase their time there, the release said. “It’s like Alice in Wonderland meets Willy Wonka,” Emily Chang, senior vice president and CMO for Starbucks, China, said in another release.

When visiting the roastery, a menu will be available to customers through the app, or it will pop up if they point their phone at certain icons hanging above the bar, the release said. In addition to being able to place an order and pay directly from their phones, customers will also be alerted digitally when their order is ready to be picked up, the release said.

Blurring the lines between online and in-store shopping speaks to a trend known as omni-channel retail. Starbucks joins firms such as Dick’s Sporting Goods, Disney, Bank of America, REI, and more in digitizing their customer initiatives.

Alibaba’s online marketplace, Tmall, can also be used to further extend the shopping experience at Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Shanghai. According to the release, users can buy roastery-specific merchandise, order bags of coffee, and access curated tours or custom tasting menus.

SEE: Why Dick’s Sporting Goods decided to play its own game in e­commerce

“Customers can extend the experience even after leaving the store,” Echo Jiang, director of customer experience at the Roastery, said in the release. “They can bring the Starbucks Roastery home with them, to continue enjoying and even share the experience with others.”

At 30,000 square feet, the Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Shanghai is the company’s largest location in the world. It also features a Teavana tea bar that was 3D printed using recycled materials, the release said.

China is the fastest growing market for Starbucks. According to the release, a new store is opening every 15 hours in the country.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. Starbucks is using augmented reality (AR) to drive its omni-channel retail efforts, blending the online and in-person store experiences.
  2. The AR experience acts as a virtual tour guide of the Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Shanghai, and offers an option for ordering from custom tasting menus and more.
  3. The new Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Shanghai is the firm’s largest, spanning 30,000 feet, and includes a 3D-printed tea bar.