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Starbucks stirs up mobile sales with holiday instant win game

For its second-annual Starbucks for Life campaign, the coffeehouse chain is rewarding members via an online game encouraging repeat purchases throughout the month.

With more than 13 million customers entering the contest last year, Starbucks hopes to renew excitement with the ability to receive one instant win game play per each purchase made via a Starbucks Rewards app or physical card. Seven lucky winners will receive free Starbucks for the rest of their lives, while a slew of consumers can earn bonus stars to count toward a free beverage of their choice.

“Brands recognize the value of rewards in attracting audiences and building deeper relationships with their consumers,” said Joline McGoldrick, vice president of research at Millward Brown Digital. “Through this initiative, Starbucks advances three objectives by increasing usage of the app among existing users, incentivizing new users to download the app, and boosting customer affinity by offering an additional reward for purchase.

“While it may not directly increase sales, it does continue to build the Starbucks brand and further promotes the Starbucks app as a form of payment.”

Topping off holiday sales
Starbucks is stirring up excitement for its annual holiday sweepstakes, which enables customers to pay for orders via its rewards application to receive an instant win entry redeemable for prizes, including free bonus stars or complimentary Starbucks for life.

As food and beverage marketers race to grab the most amount of holiday sales – particularly from fan-favorite seasonal drinks and treats – Starbucks is ensuring that its loyalty members feel more compelled than ever to spend their hard-earned dollars at the coffee giant.

This year’s sweepstakes began on December 8 and runs through Jan. 11, 2016.

My Starbucks Rewards member seeking to get in on the action must use their registered card or Starbucks mobile app to pay for their order. For each purchase made, the customer will be allotted one game play.

He or she should then visit the new mobile microsite for this year’s campaign,, and log in with the loyalty member credentials. This will allow him or her to play an instant win game, during which he or she can win a variety of prizes, ranging from bonus rewards stars to the sought-after grand prize.

The entries will manifest themselves on mobile in the form of game pieces, which can be collected on a virtual board. Consumers will undoubtedly enjoy placing cartoon versions of holiday-themed icons, such as the abominable snowman, a reindeer and a wrapped present, on their boards.

The 2015 sweepstakes mimics last year’s promotion, with the exception of the microsite and instant win redesign. Seven winners will be bestowed with the grand prize of Starbucks for life, while 45 consumers will receive Starbucks for one year.

Additionally, 225 customers will earn a month’s worth of free Starbucks and 750 people will enjoy Starbucks for one week.

“With the sweepstakes, Starbucks is able to reach out to a broader audience by welcoming in more consumers into the Starbucks reward program (with a simple sign-up),” said Alicia Park, brand analyst at Vivaldi Partners Group. “With the possibility of winning 30 years of free coffee, there are now new loyal customers that will continue to purchase a hot cup of coffee or a crimson red pack of coffee beans for the holidays.

“The sweepstakes has become incorporated into the consumers’ daily routine and as a result, this interaction will build Starbucks’ brand. Starbucks understands our need to take time and chat over coffee with a family member or friend; they understand our desires and therefore, will have a better understanding of where they can increase share of mind along the consumer decision-making process.”

Building sales momentum
Customers on the fence about picking up a hot beverage or sweet treat one day may now be inspired to make a Starbucks purchase if they know they will be eligible to win a prize. The potential of gaining even more bonus stars for rewards accounts could be enough to fuel more participation in the campaign, as ten bonus stars enable a member to earn a free drink.

A plethora of other major retailers, including Victoria’s Secret, have been giving back to customers over the holiday season with special rewards cards that also help drive in-store traffic.

Last year’s focus on mobile to drive holiday foot traffic was a success for Starbucks, with the company reporting gains not only in traffic and but also a strong response to the Starbucks for Life holiday promotion (see story). More than 13 million consumers entered the contest over the thirty-one-day entry period.

“Reciprocity-based marketing is one of the most effective audience strategies in building receptivity and goodwill,” Millward Brown Digital’s Ms. McGoldrick said. “Coffee retailers looking to steal market share could benefit from creating value exchange or reciprocity rewards in their customer relationships.”

Final Take
Alex Samuely, staff writer on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York