Going for the Gold

This spring break, I travelled to Seattle, Washington, the home of many great companies. These include giants such as, Amazon, Microsoft, Boeing, and last but certainly not least, Starbucks. Traveling to such a place has me reflecting on just how far startups have come, particularly Starbucks. (I can’t help but think about it, seeing as there is literally one on every street corner). Starbucks has grown from one small coffee shop to an international chain. Its expansion has been an impressive example of how far one person with a vision can go. On the plane ride to Washington, I read an interesting article in the Delta magazine about Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks. He discussed how he is expanding Starbucks products to focus more on the rising popularity of teas and juices. He also discussed how Starbucks is utilizing transmedia to increase sales and customer interaction.

Starbucks introduced their Gold Card program several years ago. This eventually came with an app that works on your smartphone. The app has many features. It has a mobile card, which you can load money on and use to pay for in-store purchases. It can find Starbucks located closest to you, sends messages with special offers, and lets you customize drinks with a simulator. Once you rack up 12 stars, which can be earned with each purchase, you will earn a free drink or pastry. You must earn 30 in a year to reach Gold status, which offers special benefits. You can even see a star being added to your “e-cup” after a purchase, signifying you’re one purchase closer to a free treat.

Now, even in groceries stores, if you buy a bag of Starbuck’s coffee you can enter in a special code found on the bag to ear even more stars. This interactive app provides an incentive for people to interact more with Starbucks and to purchase more. It even allows you to send an e-giftcard to someone just from your phone. If you check in online, you can earn different badges for doing things like setting up automatic card reloads or sending someone a giftcard. All of these provide clever incentives for you to spend more of your money.

It is interesting how big a role technology can play in something as simple as buying a cup of coffee.  While it is convenient, without actually parting with your physical money, it is easy to overspend on a product that, let’s face it, is a bit overpriced to begin with. These interactive apps are a smart marketing tool, but can allow consumers to get carried away.


Howard Schultz. (2014, 03). Retrieved from http://deltaskymag.delta.com/Sky-Extras/Favorites/Howard-Schultz.aspx

3 thoughts on “Going for the Gold

  1. I agree. As I recently joined the gold card member club, it is very easy to overspend on money because the promise of that next star is only a few dollars away. However, this program and app is a wonderful way for Starbucks to stay connected with their core consumers. The people who have achieved gold card status and keep it are the loyal consumers who will keep coming back. This app now allows Starbucks to keep in closer contact with them through the messages. Additionally, it allows Starbucks to make more customers loyal because they want the prestige of the gold card member.


  2. I think Starbucks has done a great job of interacting and engaging in conversation with their consumers. Their brand is built around the image of comfort and friendliness and apps like this one are a great way to further this established identity. I think their My Starbucks Idea website has also strengthened their consumer loyalty.


  3. I have the app and I am also a gold member. Since I heard about the gold membership, I was determined to become a gold member, because of the guarantee that every 12 stars you get a free drink and because of the other rewards offered. I use the app because its easy and I don’t need to bring my wallet every time I go to Starbucks. So I believe that the App as well as the website has definitely benefited Starbucks in terms of consumer loyalty and convenience, at least personally.


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