The countdown to Red Cups

November 07, 2011 11:31 PM ‐ Christmas

One sign that Christmas is getting closer is when Starbucks' range of Christmas drinks return to their coffee shops.

This year Starbucks in the UK are treating us to Gingerbread Latte, Toffee Nut Latte, Eggnog Latte and Praline Mocha all served up in the now famous festive red cups.

I'm not the only person who gets excited about the return of the Red Cups, a couple of months back me and three friends were stood outside a closed Starbucks late one night wondering when the Red Cups were back, this was the inspiration for

I built the site in a couple of hours and guessed a return date, usually the end of the first week in November, I created a supporting Twitter account and Facebook presence and the site its self was full of social plugins to help it go viral.

Within a few days of launching the site it was ticking over with a couple of hundred visits a day and appeared high in Google for Red Cup related searches.

It only took about 5 days for the site to get its first bit of attention.  It was discovered by two radio presenters from Xfm who shared the link on their Twitter accounts and also mentioned it on air.  Xfm is owned by the company I work for but what was great is that they found the website totally independently, the first sign that it was going viral.  Obviously this on air mention created a midweek spike in traffic, only to be followed up by another spike at the weekend when the site was mentioned on BBC Radio 5 Live.

The site continued it's growth in traffic, picking up more likes and more tweets - including lots of retweets of the hashtag #redcupsarecoming.

I was amazed a few weeks later when I had a day which dwarfed the previous highs created by the radio mentions.  Starbucks sent out an email newsletters to their subscribers, at the bottom of the email was the phrase "Red Cups are coming" - a tease from Starbucks and enough to get thousands of people heading to Google to find out exactly when they were coming.

With my website ranking higher than Starbucks' official site for Red Cup related search terms, it was which gave them the answer, and of course they then shared the site via Facebook and Twitter with their friends.

A week before Red Cup day, Starbucks put a-frames outside their stores promoting the pending arrival of Starbucks, again this led to more curious Google searches, this steadily grew over the week until November 2nd, the day before the Red Cups returned.

November 2nd was a huge day for the site, it picked up around 1,000 Facebook likes in a few hours and out performed previous day highs by around 10 times.  At this point the site was truly viral with groups of friends sharing links driving more and more people to the site.

I use Google Analytics on the site which lets me see who visits and when, there have been several visits from employees at Starbucks including five visits from their headquarters in Seattle, so the site hasn't gone unnoticed.

The site was also spotted by journalists at Fox News in Chicago who contacted me and asked if I would take part in a TV news feature about Red Cups, asking why people get so excited.

In total, during its 50 day existence, the site was visited over 50,000 times, over 10,000 of those visits came in the one day on the 2nd.  Those visits generated around 60,000 page views.

The site received over 3,000 Facebook likes and was posted to Twitter over 200 but was but was talked about in tweets and retweeted hundreds more times.  54% of visitors to the site came from the UK, 45% from the US - the remaining visits came from 57 other countries around the world.

The site's biggest problem was the bounce rate, 82% of people who visited the site vanished again as soon as they'd seen the timer - this means they didn't spend much time on the site (average 36 seconds) or click on to more pages (average 1.3 pages per visit).

Starbucks also ran some social media based promotion for the Red Cups this year, a Facebook game let fans of the cups compete to get the drinks at stores in their town a week before anywhere else.  It would be interesting to know how the game compared in comparison.  Next year, I'd like to grow the site and make the most of the buzz and try to increase engagement, repeat visits and the time spent on the site.

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