The Buzz About The Starbucks Payment App

As of the third quarter, the Starbucks payment app has nearly 12 million active monthly users.
Drew Grossman

For the past several years Starbucks has offered a branded mobile app that allows customers to pay for coffee, tip the barista, track and redeem rewards, receive personalized offers, and find nearby stores. It even allows users to save customized drinks under the My Favorites option.

Starbucks launched the app in 2009 and as of midyear 2014, nearly 12 million Starbucks customers were actively using the app. The coffee chain is processing about 15% of its business through it.

Although the ability to quickly and easily pay for coffee via your phone is nice, the app’s success is about more than convenience. It’s about an experience beyond what a plastic card can provide.

One of the reasons the Starbucks card is so popular on a mobile app is because it keeps track automatically of your drink purchases and gives you your free drink in the app, says Jason Oxman, CEO of the Electronic Transactions Association.

So how can credit unions go beyond convenience and make mobile banking apps mean more than one less card in the wallet?

Tying in a member loyalty program is a good start. Using gamification to keep members engaged is a step in the right direction. And Near field communication capabilities will help members actually use those 10% cashback deals at Joe Shmo’s Grocers.

The point is to think of the mobile payment app as an opportunity to further engage with the member instead of using it as a digital replacement for a physical debit card.

The Starbucks app is enormously popular … because of the things you can do using your phone that the plastic card can’t do, Oxman says.

September 10, 2014

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