Mobile Payments: Moving Beyond Starbucks

During the recent Starbucks annual meeting, CEO Howard Schultz introduced enhanced features to its highly used app, such as the ability to allow customers to tip directly from the app.

While likely improving the happiness of baristas in more than 7,000 company-operated stores in the U.S., the move also advances what can be done with the app.

But Schultz also mentioned, somewhat in passing, plans to look at options to leverage the company’s lead spot in the mobile payments arena.

In a recent cable television interview, Schultz also posed the question “how can we leverage (mobile payments) beyond the four walls of our stores?”

“Most retailers don’t have the competencies, resources and flexibility to make the investments,” Schultz said in an interview on CNBC. “We are getting calls from retailers of all kinds. We have an amazing, stunning opportunity within mobile payment and social digital media.”

As a large-footprint retailer like Starbucks introduces technologies that facilitate mobile payments, it’s essentially making it easier for customers to basically check out.

Various research surveys show that mobile shoppers want to check out of stores more quickly, if not more efficiently.

In the case of Starbucks, the ultimate goal of the app is to enhance the customer experience. For example, the app allowed in-store Wi-Fi and complimentary downloads of music, well before introducing mobile payments.

The unknown, of course, is if Starbucks had started with mobile payments would it have achieved such a high adoption rate.

And therein lies one of the issues around mobile payments.

The simple ability to pay with a phone rather than a credit card or cash is hardly a great advancement.

While there may be sophisticated technological advancements included in a mobile payment approach, it doesn’t mean it enhances the customer experience.

And that is a missing link in mobile payments. But not at Starbucks.

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