Starbucks Launches Loyalty Program Built on NFT Tech


When it comes to quick-service restaurants (QSRs), Starbucks has some of the more loyal customers out there, with the brand’s rewards program often upheld as the exemplar. Now, the coffeehouse chain is going to find out just how loyal its fans are with a new rewards initiative that relies on a higher level of engagement with the brand than any before.

On Monday (Sept. 12), the brand announced that, later this year, it will launch Starbucks Odyssey, a program by which customers and employees can earn non-fungible tokens (NFTs). These rewards will be earned through so-called “journeys,” including “interactive games” and “fun challenges” centered on coffee and on the brand overall. NFTs will also be able to be purchased, and program members will be able to buy or sell them to each other.

See also: Starbucks Deploying NFTs in Rewards Program

At a time when many brands are looking to meet consumer demand for speed and convenience, touting the benefits of time-savings, Starbucks is counting on enough of its customers being willing to dedicate this kind of time and focus to the brand to make this launch pay off. In addition to asking for members to participate in games and other branded experiences, some of the rewards on offer also include a significant investment of time and attention such as virtual classes and event invitations.

If the bet pays off, and members prove willing to engage with these offerings, Starbucks will have a deeper hold on its loyal customers than ever before. Yet, NFTs are far from a surefire hit, with the technology’s growth hitting some major snags. In July, for instance, NFT marketplace OpenSea announced that it was laying off 20% of its staff in the midst of a “combination crypto winter and broad macroeconomic instability.” Additionally, a May edition of PYMNTS’ Today in Data noted findings that NFT sales had dropped 92% since September.

Related news: NFT Marketplace OpenSea Cuts 20% of Staff

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That said, regarding the engagement that Starbucks is seeking from its fans, the coffeehouse chain is certainly not the restaurant to gamify its loyalty program and add different kinds of rewards. Chipotle, for instance, announced in June 2021 the launch of its Rewards Exchange, offering giveaways ranging from menu items to apparel. Plus, in September 2021, the fast-casual brand added gamified Extras, offering extra points and badges for completing personalized challenges. These initiatives appear to have been successful.

“Not only have we seen strong positive responses from our most loyal fans, but even more exciting is that these program enhancements have increased engagement from our medium and low frequency guests,” Chipotle CEO Brian Niccol told analysts on a call in February.

Read more: NFTs Flip the Script on Fast-Food Toys With Crypto Collectibles

It remains to be seen whether the tech investment will prove key to driving deeper engagement down the line or whether the coffeehouse chain may be putting the digital collectible cart before the digital collectible horse.