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Starbucks pours on mobile success with pre-paid cards, Tweet-a-coffee

January 10, 2014

Starbucks continues to lead merchants in mobile commerce, raking in $1.3 billion in pre-paid cards during the fourth quarter, and with innovative programs, such as “Tweet-a-Coffee,” which is just kicking off in Canada.

The international coffee chain’s mobile campaigns seem to be as addictive to consumers as its coffee. Starbucks’ winning combination of loyalty, rewards and simplicity of service is the key.

“This past holiday season’s success was a direct result of our strategic investment in creating world-class digital and mobile payment expertise and assets, enabling us to handle over $1.3 billion in total Starbucks Card loads across the United States and Canada for the quarter,” said Maggie Jantzen, spokesperson for Starbucks, Seattle. “This holiday season customers also embraced the convenience and choice afforded by physical and digital gift cards.

“Instead of gifting a particular item, many consumers chose to gift ‘choice,'” she said. “With our respected and trusted brand and special holiday Starbucks Cards and Starbucks Card eGifts available in our stores, online and in thousands of other retail locations, we were ideally positioned to benefit from this shift as well.

“Overall, we generated over $610 million in new card activations in the holiday quarter, representing a significant increase over both last year and plan.”

Pulling mobile shots
Not one to rest on its laurels, Starbucks moved determinedly into 2014, extending to Canada its “Tweet-a-coffee” program, which also is available in the U.S. 

“Tweet-a-coffee” enables consumers to send $5 Starbucks Card eGifts to their Twitter friends and followers.

Consumers can do this on either Starbucks’ mobile apps and sites or desktop Web site.

They must have both a Starbucks and Twitter account that can then be linked.

After that, when a consumer uses Twitter to “Tweet-a-coffee” to a friend, that person will receive a $5 Starbucks card eGift.

Screenshots of Starbucks’ mobile apps

There is no question: When done effectively and correctly, social media and loyalty programs can propel mobile sales.

“Starbucks is about inspiring human connections, whether that’s inside our stores or virtually through social media,” Ms. Jantzen said. “We are thrilled to offer yet another way for our customers to engage with one another online and surprise their connections throughout the year with the gift of Starbucks through Tweet-a-Coffee.

“Given Twitter’s unique ability to connect both best friends and like-minded strangers across the globe, the digital space is begging for more ways to connect,” she said. “Tweet-A-Coffee is designed to do just that, and we are excited to innovate our social gifting offering through our active Twitter community.”

Filling mobile coffers
Starbuck’s drive and tenacity keep it out front in mobile commerce.

In April 2013, Starbucks reported receiving close to 4 million mobile payment transactions weekly, up from 2 million near the end of last year and 3 million in March 2013. Additionally, mobile accounted for approximately 10 percent of Starbuck’s total U.S. tender, at that time (see story).

Starbucks apps are available for free download on the Apple App Store and Google Play.

Other mobile retailers and merchants can learn from Starbucks’ example.

“We are encouraged by how our customers have fully embraced our mobile apps as the most convenient way to pay, reload and keep tabs on their loyalty rewards,” Ms. Jantzen said. “[And] we’re dedicated and optimistic about the future growth of the Starbucks Card platform.”

Final Take
Kari Jensen is staff writer on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York

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Kari Jensen is staff writer on Mobile Commerce Daily and Mobile Marketer, New York. Reach her at

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