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The Appacino: How Starbucks Evolves App-Based Payment

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The Appacino: How Starbucks Evolves App-Based Payment

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It’s been almost two years since Starbucks made it easier for  their massively caffeine addicted customer base to never have to take their wallets/purses out to pay for coffee. It’s the ultimate combination. A loyal consumer base that is also fully ensconced in the mobile market.  Starbucks has essentially become the gold standard  for what you can do with a consumer app other than offer a way for consumers to access what your company makes or sells.

In January 2011 the coffee franchise unveiled it’s payment app  for iPhone and Android in thousands of its stores in addition to a slew of its franchises in places like Target and bookstores like Barnes and Noble. The benefits to the customer were instantaneous. Not only could you pay for your coffee, you could reload your virtual Starbucks card with more money, you could check your balance, track your Starbucks Rewards, view info about products and food,  and even locate a nearby store.

Also, in creating this all-in-one app Starbucks was also able to effectively bring it into the eponymous Starbucks brand along with the recognizable logo, green aprons, and in house WiFi. And thanks to the aforementioned customer base, it wasn’t hard to make this app part of the brand as they were more than happy to use this platform to get their grandes and ventis.

Rather than rest on it’s laurels, the company has continued to build this app into the shining model of customer-based mobile payment apps with recently released news that takes this app to a whole new level of customer convenience.

  • The app is now integrated with Apple’s Passbook which will allow iPhone users’ Starbucks cards to appear on their screen the minute they walk into a store.
  • Digital tipping will be a new feature added to the mobile payment system by this time next year.
  • Customers will also be able to use Square Wallet to pay for their coffee. If you’re not familiar with that app, it’s basically a virtual wallet that holds your debit, credit  and loyalty cards among other things.

Another benefit of using Square Wallet for the franchise comes right out of that “How did they do that/futuristic”  technology. Incorporating Square Wallet into their app, the Starbucks app will enable GPS to detect your phone when you walk in. Then when you go to pay, all you say at the register is your name and … wait for it .. the barista will verify the payment through a photo displayed on their register.

What does all this techno-wizardry mean in the app market? Quite a lot actually.

  1. For the developers it means if you create a well designed app, it becomes easy to build off of and upgrade instead of having to build several apps for one client. It also offers the potential interest of big companies who want you to become their App Golden Goose.
  2. For the company creating customer apps, it pushes them to figure out how to best serve their customer’s needs and then build that one killer app that meets all those needs.
  3. And on the customer end, a seamless payment experience means they will become more and more use to this method of transaction thus creating the need and demand for more retail companies to deliver a similar experience on the mobile platform.

As the mobile platform continues to transition into the norm for commerce and communication, innovation at this level shows the limitless possibilities for app development and the rewards that come with it for all those involved.


 This post was written by Shawn Deena, a member of the Bull City Mobile team.  They are mobile problem solvers working for you.



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