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Devotion and Dependability

Alissa Saoutina |

Here is a brief story about my recent experience buying a cappuccino in a Starbucks in the UK.

On a cool Sunday morning on my way to a wedding in London, I was hankering for a hot cup of coffee. The streets around King’s Cross station were quiet and it was with ease that I ran into the nearest Starbucks café.

Such a familiar sight—familiar names of my favorite drinks, snug armchairs and even the same type of chandeliers hanging around the store. I thought to myself: “All is the same around me, so why shouldn’t my payment experience be the same?—I shall try to use my Starbucks loyalty app to purchase my coffee.”

My phone did not have any network or Internet connection, but I fired up my app and timidly inquired from the barista if I may use it to pay for my hazelnut cappuccino. At first the barista was surprised at the question and when I clarified that I am from the U.S., my barista smiled and pointed out that I can pay with the app across the globe (except for China, according to him). I scanned my phone and was waiting to hear a beep from the register declining my transaction – to my surprise it not only went through, but upon my connection to wi-fi I saw my cup fill up with anticipated stars (Starbucks lingo for loyalty points, in case you’re a tea-drinker).

The story provides an example of how Starbucks is a leader not only in the coffee business, but also in using technology to inspire unwavering loyalty from customers—partly by enabling mobile payments on the largest scale to date.

However, despite the company’s above mentioned successes, there is still a lot of room for trial and error—especially in mobile payments. Their latest upgrade to  Starbucks’ mobile application was met with limited enthusiasm: customers like the new sleek design, ability to tip from the app  but are not impressed with the user flow:  the new location of the pay feature (top left corner), according to some reviewers, makes the payment feature less accessible, shaking the phone to bring up the payment card information perceived as a cool factor but deemed by some as unnecessary and confusing for others.

With other companies, such as ISIS, MCX and Square gearing up to make 2014 the year of mobile payments, Starbucks will have to meet the challenge of providing an innovative and instinctive consumer experience. Loyalty offerings (stars, free books and songs that come with the app) are still secondary without mobile payment made easy and intuitive.

Topics: Big Data, Mobile, Payments Strategy, Retail Trends

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