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Starbucks rolls out largest mobile payments, loyalty play in US

May 12, 2010

Starbucks Card Mobile app users can touch and pay

Starbucks Card Mobile app users can touch and pay

Starbucks Coffee Co. has unveiled the largest combined mobile payments and loyalty program in the United States.

With the Starbucks Card Mobile application for Apple’s iPhone and iPod touch, users can check their balance, reload their card and view transactions. In 16 select Starbucks stores in Silicon Valley and Seattle and at any U.S. Target Starbucks store—they can actually pay with their Starbucks Card using their iPhone or iPod touch.

“The Starbucks Card platform is a cornerstone of our payment and customer loyalty strategy, accounting for over 15 percent of tender at our U.S. retail stores,” said Alisa Martinez, spokeswoman at Starbucks, Seattle. “As a result, we are focused on building the next-generation Starbucks Card to delight our customers.

“The iPhone app marries the benefits of the Starbucks Card with the convenience of the mobile phone,” she said. “Our customers love the ease of checking their balance, using bar code payments and reloading their card – all at their fingertips.”

Starbucks initially launched the Starbarcks Card Mobile application along with the MyStarbucks application, which offers a store locator, nutrition information and an interactive drink builder, in the App Store on September 23, 2009.

MFoundry is our primary vendor and has been a vital partner in our launch,” she said. 

Starbucks Card Mobile
Starbucks claims that many of its customers told the company that they wanted to be able to track their loyalty Stars on Starbucks Card Mobile, so the coffee giant added this feature to make tracking Stars more convenient.

“In our most recent release, which launched this week, we integrated the My Starbucks Rewards loyalty program into the app,” Ms. Martinez said. “This feature allows our customers to track their progress in the Rewards program and earn their way to free drinks with each Starbucks Card transaction.

“Our aim is to link payment and loyalty into a unified user experience,” she said.

Consumers who download the Starbucks Card Mobile application can participate by visiting the Payment Trial portal within the application and touching ‘Get Started’ to activate Touch to Pay.

In select locations—Cupertino, Mountain View, Sunnyvale and San Jose, as well as Seattle and all Starbucks located within a Target store—the company is  testing a mobile payment feature.

In participating stores, customers can pay with their Starbucks Card using only their iPhone or iPod touch and the Starbucks Card Mobile application.

Mobile in-app bar code

Mobile in-app bar code

The iPhone or iPod touch will display a bar code that customers use just like your Starbucks Card to make purchases, scanning it at the point of sale.

The features of the Starbucks Card Mobile application include the ability for customers to check their Starbucks Card balance; reload their Starbucks Card with a major credit card; view their transaction history; pay with their iPhone or iPod touch at any U.S. Target Starbucks store.

Mobile payments and loyalty
Starbucks is trialing mobile payments in order to see how its most loyal customers respond.

“One of the primary objectives was to test whether our customers would enjoy paying with their phone and use their phone as a payment device on a sustained basis,” Ms. Martinez said. “Additionally we assess impacts to our store operators and point-of-sale systems.

“We continue to evaluate feedback from our customers and baristas prior to extending mobile payment capability to additional stores and markets,” she said. “Customers have loved the convenience and speed of mobile payment and the fact that it is integrated into our loyalty program, My Starbucks Rewards.”

Starbucks promoted the availability of the MyStarbucks App and Starbucks Card Mobile on My Starbucks Idea, where customers can share suggestions and ideas with the brand.

The coffee chain also posted information about the applications on its Starbucks Facebook page and via its Web site, and also reached out to its Twitter followers.

Starbucks Card Mobile was also featured on iTunes as a top productivity application shortly after launch.

On Target
There are more than a thousand Target locations in the U.S. that have a Starbucks on site.

At launch of the mobile payments initiative at Target, Starbucks also included in-store signage at all Starbucks Target locations.

“The collaboration with Target, one of Starbucks’ top licensees, helps us offer 1,002 new points of destination for customers to experience the ease and convenience of paying for their signature Starbucks beverages with the flash of their Apple iPhone or iPod® touch device,” Ms. Martinez said.

“Based on the initial interest we’ve seen in Seattle and Northern California, we talked with Target about how we could collaborate and expand the program,” she said. “Target has a loyal Starbucks customer base as well as the technology in place to support expansion of the Starbucks Card Mobile payment capability.

“This extends our market reach and gives us an opportunity to continue to gain learnings.”

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Dan Butcher is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily and Mobile Marketer. Reach him at

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