2011.43 | Starbucks Mobile Payment in Canada

While our friends to the south have been able to pay with their mobile phones at Starbucks for some months now, that functionality was just activated in Canada last night. I was finally able to use the app to pay on my trip to Starbucks this morning.

For those who need a refresher on how this mobile payment solution works, Starbucks connects your stored value card to a barcode within their mobile apps.  While at the store, the user opens the mobile app on their device and pulls up their virtual Starbucks card on the mobile device’s screen.  When they tender at the point of sale, the cashier scans a barcode from the mobile device with an imager at point of sale instead of swiping a physical card through the MSR.

This solution does not make use of NFC.   This solution does not require your mobile device to be online or connected from a data perspective in any way.  All you need is this barcode on your screen.  Effectively, you could print this same barcode and scan it at the point of sale to pay in the same manner as you would with the phone.

Setting up the app is simplified by the fact that users just enter a login and password for starbucks,ca and the system automatically uploads their card number, card image and balance.  This is exactly what technology is for – to make life simpler – not to make users enter in meaningless numbers.

This simple solution is a terrific fit for Starbucks specifically for reasons I explained when the app was originally released in the US.

Like many excellent solutions, it leverages proven technologies in a combination that fits the users, the retail environment and the business.   For the user, all they need to do is install or update a mobile app, open it, and log-in.  For the store, a new scanner/imager was required at the point of sale terminal, and a new tender option in the point of sale software was required.  Some training to know how to read a barcode from a phone and you are good to go.

Now you have an application with a reason for users to open it.  Well done.  Of course, this now opens suggestions for future capabilities to highlight and increase that usage.

  • Keep standard orders on the mobile device.  Customer scans customer facing scanner at point of sale, and the order is populated on the cashier’s screen.  Speeds order entry and minimized screen touches for cashiers.  Order comes up on screen for validation.  This would be amazing at the drive thru.  No more crackling voices.
  • Upselling on screen based on usual customer orders.  It would have to be opt in, but if the customer is standing in line and they pull up the app to pay it can highlight a good add-on to their order that is specific to them, right when they are ordering.  Provides consistent upsell.
  • In the US it is possible to add funds to the cards of other users as a gift.  Great option.

Whatever retailers do, they should ensure that their app has a reason for existing.  This one has that.  Would this work everywhere?  Certainly not.  Every business is different, and that is the fundamental challenge – building an app that solves a problem and improves something  for customers and stores.

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Comments

  1. Tim Dickey says:

    I agree that the tendering element doesn’t save you much time, Mike. I don’t expect any new tendering beyond maybe the Square Card Case Open Tab app will really do that. Whipping out a mobile just isn’t easier than a wallet.

    In fact, I noticed this morning that after the iOS 5.0.1 update my login and password got cleaned out of the app so I had to login again. That definitely COST me time.

    A mobile app like does have some other benefits, however.
    1. You can refresh your balance on the card right on the app. If people do that while they are waiting in line I don’t have to wait for them to put money on a card behind them in line which always seemed like a nonsensical exercise to me.
    2. You can avoid George Costanza wallet by removing one more card from your wallet. I try to keep my wallet as small as possible, and I like that benefit.
    3. If you forget your wallet, you can at least still get your coffee. Most people notice they don’t have their wallet after a few hours. They notice they don’t have their mobile in a few minutes.

    A mobile app like this is definitely not a panacea, but it paves the road to the next thing. If none of us signed up for the incremental benefits, there would never be any greater change.

    Thanks for the comment!

  2. I was excited when this finally came to Canada, to try it out. But after going through the setup and such it did dawn on me that while yes its cool it doesn’t really “save” me time or anything. It isn’t like i wouldn’t have my Starbucks card with me at all times in my wallet anyways just like my phone. Pulling out the card and paying as normal is just as simple.
    As noted in your article, it will be interesting to see what they do with this in the future.

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