In the case of digital innovation, Starbucks has been a pioneer on quite a lot of fronts. Some say its new Web3 loyalty program will likely be a litmus take a look at far past the world of espresso.
On Thursday, the espresso big introduced the beta launch of Starbucks Odyssey, the corporate’s first main try at integrating blockchain tech into its present rewards program. Beginning with a small group of U.S. members and workers — the precise quantity wasn’t disclosed — Starbucks will invite contributors into “journeys” that enable them to gather NFTs and factors that unlock new advantages and experiences.
The continuing crypto bear market and a backdrop of financial uncertainty have some entrepreneurs questioning if it’s even price spending money and time on blockchain-based initiatives. Nonetheless, Starbucks’ model ubiquity and historical past of digital innovation put Odyssey much more beneath the microscope. Entrepreneurs and trade observers say they're watching the rollout of this system because it may very well be a bellwether for a way a lot shoppers are prepared to care about branded NFTs.
Odyssey — which was first introduced in September and that can broaden to extra individuals in January 2023 — makes Starbucks one of many largest manufacturers to combine NFTs into its loyalty program. That’s one thing firms have begun exploring whereas others search for methods to make digital belongings extra helpful as curiosity fades for collectible NFTs. Actions will embody taking a digital tour of a espresso farm, studying about Starbucks historical past and taking part in interactive video games. The rewards for accumulating “stamps” (NFTs) embody digital espresso martini-making lessons, entry to merchandise and artist collaborations and invitations to occasions at Starbucks shops and low farms.
The corporate declined an interview to elaborate on Odyssey. Nonetheless, in a weblog submit, Starbucks CMO Brady Brewer described it because the “subsequent huge innovation” and a method to reward clients. “We're leveraging Web3 know-how to reward and join with our members in new methods, reminiscent of providing collectible, ownable digital stamps, a brand new digital group, and opening entry to new advantages and immersive espresso experiences — each bodily and digitally.”
Odyssey was constructed with the assistance of Forum3, a Web3 loyalty platform co-founded by somebody who is aware of the model very nicely: former Starbucks chief digital officer Adam Brotman. He developed the espresso big’s present loyalty program and in addition led the design of its cell ordering and fee programs. Starbucks can also be partnering with Nifty Gateway, a well-liked NFT market.
Some entrepreneurs within the Web3 house say it’ll be price being attentive to whether or not Web3 fans are open to a model like Starbucks coming into the house — or whether or not they really feel the model has over-simplified it.
“The Starbucks Odyssey launch is a litmus take a look at for Web3’s readiness to assist a serious QSR model take buyer engagement to the following degree,” mentioned Israel Mirsky, a accomplice on the innovation agency Home of Consideration. “As a lot as it's a take a look at of the model’s capability to construct compelling experiences on prime of that basis.”
In line with Mirsky, Starbucks is true to focus Odyssey on group constructing, fan engagement, and protecting it per different elements of the model reminiscent of its present rewards program and digital platforms. Nonetheless, success will rely on how artistic the expertise finally ends up being.
Liron Shapira, a former investor within the crypto big Coinbase who's now a crypto-skeptic, mentioned firms ought to look ahead to whether or not Odyssey succeeds as a loyalty program. But when it does, he mentioned different firms ought to copy it however ditch the blockchain half since many may not even want it.
“They’re saying the person may not even understand it’s a blockchain factor, which implies it’s merely a loyalty program,” Shapira mentioned. “The selection of blockchain know-how to trace the ledger of who at the moment has what on this system is insane since Starbucks is essentially a trusted get together within the system.”
Matt Wurst, CMO and co-founder of Mint, an NFT platform for manufacturers, mentioned there are a number of key teams that will likely be paying shut consideration as to whether Odyssey is a canary within the coal mine together with established manufacturers which were early to undertake Web3 tech, different manufacturers which were watching from the sidelines and buyers questioning whether or not it’s price funding the house.
Starbucks may additionally introduce a possible information technique that others may wish to be taught from, Wurst mentioned. The largest challenges will likely be articulating the worth for purchasers and protecting individuals engaged over time.
“It is a [customer relationship management] play, make no mistake,” Wurst mentioned. “The chance — whether or not that is loyalty or membership — is to proceed partaking your client otherwise. E mail is proscribed. Search conduct is proscribed. However now we've a direct method by way of proof of possession to attach with advocates, loyal shoppers, or individuals who have visited a retailer or restaurant.”