In a twist on BYOD , (Bring Your Own Device) for Point of Sale, customers have been bringing their own device to Starbucks for years now. Since I use the app at least 15 times a month, and sometimes 30x a month, it seemed natural to discuss the other side of the retail counter for POS hardware.
The Starbucks app, for those of you who are not familiar with it, is a combination of a loyalty program, payment technology, store locator, reward generator and a "stay real close to the customer" technology.
It works well and gives customers a free drink for every fifteen they buy. To use it, customers simply open the app and tap "Pay". A 2D barcode appears. I would have included a picture of mine, but some jokers would be running down to Starbucks this morning, opening their smartphones to this article, and charging their latte's on my account. Since I have the automatic refill option turned on, which charges my credit card and fills the Starbucks card whenever a low balance is reached, this could become quite expensive, so, you'll have to download the free app to see what the barcode looks like. You can get the app at the Google Play store of course, and the iPhone equivalent.
The app includes a store locator - see image on the right,which is fast! and easy to use.
The Starbucks app can manage multiple cards by the way, so if you have given a card to your teenager, or significant other, you can keep tabs on the activity and refill when you get that urgent text (Dad, can you please refill my card) - not the worst way in the world to make sure you hear from your college kids occasionally.
For every fifteen drinks I buy, I get a free one. This is not an insignificant thing. My usual drink is a "short Pike" - which is about $1.70 or so, and I try to keep the caffeine to a minimum. But for my rewards drink, Starbucks lets me order almost any size, so I will usually save the freebie for a day when I'm out on a long bike ride and then order a large Valencia or other refreshing flavored drink that costs around $4.00. I feel like I am getting a great deal. (Kudos to Starbucks for a great program by the way.)
The only drawback to the program is that I don't ever use cash anymore, and consequently don't throw my change in the tip jar. The employees, who turnover quite regularly, have said they don't mind. I hope that's true. Starbucks has made a big deal out of taking care of their vendors in other countries, I hope their "fair-trade" practices extend to offering a competitive salary and benefits (including a health care option or option to co-pay) in the United States as well. Charity begins at home, some say.
Summarizing - Starbucks has a great program that keeps customers coming back. Other retailers would do well do match this program and soon. There is a limit to how many of these apps I am willing to carry in my smartphone - and actually use on a regular basis, and I would guess that number is around ten or less. Right now I only use Starbucks - and keep a few loyalty cards in my car for those businesses that stamp or hole-punch them and mentally, I can only keep track of a few. So the next few that come along are likely to get some of my mindshare.
Small retailers would do well to make sure that any point of sale system has an option to add a mobile loyalty program - including ones like App Card, that supports many small businesses at a time.
Written by Craig Aberle
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