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Starbucks ramps up in-store mobile strategy for the holidays

Starbucks has revamped its retail experience for the 2014 holiday season, with a focus on mobile via new content and offers for loyalty program members and the launch of mobile ordering.

The coffee house chain points to last year’s holiday shopping season, when foot traffic declined for many retailers while online shopping accelerated significantly, as inspiration for its decision to upgrade its retail experience. The new strategy includes mobile giveaways, access to special holiday events for loyalty members and sneak peeks at new products.

“We’re excited to pilot Mobile Order & Pay later this year,” said Maggie Jantzen, manager of global communications for Starbucks, Seattle, WA. “Mobile Order & Pay is the ability for customers to order food and beverage items from Starbucks (through our mobile app), and then quickly receive their order when they enter the store.

“We look forward to sharing more details in the future.”

Mobile ordering
With over $1 billion in sales from mobile devices in 2013, Starbucks has long been an industry-leading brand in mobile strategy. It boasts over 10 million users for its loyalty program, and was one of the first companies to offer free Wi-Fi in stores for its guests.

The brand is planning to introduce Mobile Order and Pay to stores in the Portland area prior to 2015, with rollouts for the rest of the United States expected to happen in the next year. The company aims to expand its leadership in the mobile sector by increasing the speed and frequency of service, and giving consumers the convenience of placing orders before their in-store arrival.

“Starbucks has been an early adopter and innovator for mobile payments and customer loyalty apps, and many of their customers have embraced these new mobile processes,” said Ken Morris, principal at Boston Retail Partners, Boston, MA.

“The key to any online ordering app is to make ordering easier and faster for the consumer,” Mr. Morris said. “Adding convenience factors such as quick links to ‘Order the Usual,’ ‘Redeem Rewards’ and ‘Pay Online’ options will make the ordering process a welcomed service and will accelerate adoption of the ordering app.”

Starbucks plans to drive in-store traffic with the inclusion of its traditional holiday products, such as its red cups, and the introduction of new products relevant to holiday shoppers. The company is offering its first new holiday beverage in five years, the Chestnut Praline Latte, in addition to the 30th anniversary of its Starbucks Christmas Blend.

The Starbucks cards will also be going through an overhaul, with 100 uniquely designed cards belonging to a full collection available in-store. Fans of the brand will have the chance to win “Starbucks for Life” this season by swiping a Starbucks Card at the register or using a mobile device to pay.

The company hopes for the giveaway to excite customers on mobile and enhance their experiences in-store as well.

Loyalty program
The My Starbucks Rewards loyalty program is one of the most popular loyalty programs among brands. Starbucks is aiming to create even more meaningful and relevant rewards for its consumers with the program’s next phase.

“The My Starbucks Rewards™ program provides benefits to customers who pay with a registered Starbucks Card at participating stores,” Starbucks’ Ms. Jantzen said. “By registering and using their Starbucks Card, customers can begin earning Stars, which are used to redeem Rewards.”

Consumers will now be able to reap benefits such as access to the upcoming Holiday Share Event and other special events, sneak peeks at new products and offers and opportunities to earn and redeem rewards within the Starbucks umbrella of brands.

Guests may earn Stars by purchasing Starbucks VIA instant coffee and Starbucks packaged coffee at the grocery store.

“I think the mobile ordering app will be a welcomed addition and likely be embraced very quickly by Starbucks customers, as this offers the huge benefit of eliminating customers’ time waiting in a line to order and for the barista to make their beverage,” Boston Retail Partners’ Mr. Morris said.

“Another benefit to Starbucks and its customer is the ability to activate real-time promotions and offers based on environmental activities, such as proximity and weather. For example, if the temperature exceeds a certain threshold, it could trigger a promotion for a corresponding hot or cold beverage offer.”

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