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Starbucks expands abroad, brings mobile gifting to WeChat

Starbucks is expanding its mobile commerce platform to include integration with the massively popular WeChat mobile application in a partnership with Tencent, making a stronger push into the lucrative Chinese mobile market.

The partnership allows WeChat users to gift Starbucks orders and gift cards through the mobile app. WeChat is one of China’s most popular apps and Starbucks’ integration into it is a sign of a larger move towards mobile both at home and internationally.

“Starbucks and Tencent share similar values to enable greater human connections through our respective products and services, and I am pleased to partner with an established and respected social and mobile industry leader in China,” said Belinda Wong, CEO of Starbucks China. “This new strategic partnership will leverage the strengths of both Starbucks and WeChat to create a true online-to-offline social gifting platform that will deepen our engagement with our customers in a unique and powerful way.

“Just as Starbucks cards are among the most gifted around the globe, we aspire to also become the most gifted brand digitally in China.”

WeChat is a massively popular app in China, brinigng together a number of popular mobile functions under one app. It is a combination of messaging platform, social media channel and is now becoming more of a commerce platform as well.

The big new catch for WeChat and its owner Tencent is a major partnership with Starbucks.

The global coffee chain has begun working with WeChat to bring mobile gifting to the app. WeChat users can now send both orders and mobile gift cards to their friends through the app, furthering the connection between messaging services and commerce platforms.

The integration with WeChat is just one of the ways that the global coffee chain is working to make it s services more mobile for its customers in China. Starbucks is also expanding its other mobile offerings including the standard Starbucks mobile app and the brand’s My Starbucks rewards system.

Finally, Starbucks will introduce the use of WeChat Pay, the app’s internal mobile payment system at its retail locations all throughout China. With this move, Starbucks opens the way for users of one of China’s most popular apps to connect their mobile lives to the physical world in a commercial way.

Global mobile
With this partnership, Starbucks is making two strategic moves. One further into the world of mobile and one further into the growing Chinese market where the hunger for mobile apps is high.

The country has one of the strongest economies in the world and as the nation develops, smartphones proliferate.

Brands such as Starbucks are looking to take advantage of this period of growth and mobile is providing the perfect vehicle to do so.

Similar to its use of WeChat Pay in China, Starbucks is also now accepting Chase Pay here in the United States (see story), which is also a popular payment service.

Another big mobile brand that made headway in China recently is Apple, whose Apple Pay service recently debuted there, though it struggled ni the market (see story).

As Chinese consumers’ demand for mobile services continues to grow, brands such as Starbucks will have the continued opportunity to bring their brand of mobile offerings to the nation.

“The strategic cooperation between WeChat and Starbucks enables us to bring the unique Starbucks retail experience seamlessly to hundreds of millions of WeChat users in China,” said Allen Zhang, Senior Executive Vice President of Tencent. “We are happy to be the partner of choice of Starbucks and look forward to deepening our connection to our users through the highest-quality services.”