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Starbucks steams up sales with national Mobile Order and Pay expansion

Starbucks is officially making its Mobile Order and Pay feature available for consumers nationwide with Android and iOS devices while preparing for its release in Britain and Canada next month.

Starbucks fans across the United States now have the ability to order their favorite beverages or snacks prior to their arrival at a bricks-and-mortar location and pay for it via mobile, enabling them to grab the items and leave in a matter of seconds. The brand’s extensive testing of the service has offered it a leg up in the competitive food and beverage sector, while its competitors clamor to catch up and drive sales among time-strapped customers.

“Using mobile to order and pay in advance and pick-up that order, based on a customer’s real-time proximity to a physical retail location, has long been the holy grail of mobile marketing and payments,” said Wilson Kerr, vice president of business development and sales at Unbound Commerce, Boston. “Starbucks is deepening its connection with its customers by removing the most basic of in-store friction points for its app users (the line).

“It tested and iterated to get this right and I imagine that auto-ordering the ‘regular’ based on your location and stored preferences is not far-behind.”

First in line
Starbucks’ dedication to being a leader in the mobile commerce space stems from its initiative to be first in line with new offerings and features to make the purchasing process easier for consumers. Initial pilots of Mobile Order and Pay began in Portland, Oregon last December before a larger rollout occurred in the Pacific Northwest several weeks later.

This summer, the program expanded to 3,400 more locations across 17 states before culminating in this week’s nationwide introduction to more than 7,400 stores in the country.

Fans that already have the Starbucks app for Android or iOS downloaded on their devices may begin using the feature immediately. Mobile Order and Pay is also embedded within the My Starbucks Rewards loyalty program, providing a simple way for users to earn Stars for each purchase made on mobile.

To use the functionality, customers must select a nearby location from a map view, browse the menu and select the items they would like to order. Orders may be customized, meaning that consumers can request that a croissant be warmed or a bagel toasted, to fit their exact preferences.

The app will then display the estimated timeframe for the order and a payment screen, where customers may choose which method to use.

Food and beverages can be picked up at the bar area once the timeframe is up. This feature is especially useful for consumers on work breaks, with little time to wait in long lines.

The menu options will also highlight items available in specific regions and stores.

Foaming up sales
Mobile Order and Pay’s nationwide expansion comes at an opportune time for Starbucks, as it readies its associates and stores for the barrage of holiday shoppers. If guests can purchase food items ahead of time, employees may be able to spend more time catering to customers searching for holiday gifts such as coffee baskets and mugs.

Starbucks will be launching the feature in select company-owned locations in Canada and Britain next month.

The beverage marketer has been placing an increased focus on mobile commerce in recent times.

In July, Starbucks expanded its partnership with The New York Times to bring top daily articles to its mobile app users and reward loyalty members with points when they purchase print and digital subscriptions, reflecting the growing importance of top-notch content for merchants on mobile (see story).

The brand is also raising the bar for streamlined smartphone experiences with an update to its application that moves rewards front-and-center and makes scanning easier (see story).

“Customers do not mind mobile engagement that helps them interact in better, faster ways with a brand they love and trust, and this initiative should further reinforce its positon as a leader in the mobile app game,” Mr. Kerr said.

Final Take
Alex Samuely, editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York