Lessons to Learn from the Starbucks Mobile App

The success of the Starbucks Mobile Payment App comes from its utility (time saving and a loyalty reward system), advertising, and relevance. Launched in 2009 in 16 select stores, this app has become widely recognized and used globally. For advertisers and marketers looking to create their own innovations and apps, there are lessons to be learned from the success of Starbucks.

Lesson 1: Utility

The app offers a perennially time-starved group an easy way to pay. The “Shake to Pay” feature allows easy access to their Starbucks card, requiring only one hand. Starbucks recently connected with Apply Pay, staying ahead of the curve to stay relevant.

The loyalty program, unlike others before, shows the progress towards free items, alerts users when they have earned a reward, and emails users before their rewards expire. This utility works better than any physical punch card.

Lesson 2: Multiple Touch Points

In store advertising reflects the promotions available to My Starbucks Rewards members. These promotions and deals drive sales and incentivize non-users to download the free app.

When a gift card is used, the register alerts baristas if the card has not been registered. Baristas encourage those guests to register their card to start earning rewards.

On the app, weekly messages contain a free song, app download, and upcoming promotions. Members are often allowed to try the newest products, like the PSL, before its official release date. These are meant to encourage members to tell their friends about the app or even bring them into stores to see the app in action.

Lesson 3: Testing… Testing… and then updating.

Recently, the app has gotten a face-lift. It connects to Apply Pay, allows auto-reloading, and simplified its UX. By keeping up with the current trends, the app stays current in this period of constant shifting. The Auto-Reload features allows users to connect their credit card and automatically load their cards. This automatic reload removes the manual reloading of the card and allows users to pay less attention to how much they spend. (Tricky, I know).

Here’s my favorite drink. Not too healthy I know.

The first version allowed users to craft personalized drinks, but this feature proved superfluous and has since been removed. Instead, the menu, including nutritional facts and potential allergens, is available from the home screen.

Other features include being able to send gift cards electronically, finding a store based on your current location or specified address, and managing your cards. When users receive a gift card, they can add the balance to their app to receive their member rewards for using it.

Easy as 1–2–3

This app has been widely successful in part because of its simplicity and majorly due to its utility aspects. In 2013, Starbucks announced 11% of their sales volume come through the app. In the first fiscal quarter of 2015, they have reported over 13 million mobile users and 7 million mobile transactions per week. While other Starbucks campaigns, such as Race Together, have not ended well for this coffee corporation, their innovative (yet simple) app continues to succeed.