Starbucks Is the Latest Food Business to Enter the Metaverse. Its Approach Might Just Work

Starbucks is betting that it can get its customers excited about NFTs–and if it does, the company’s foray may be a case study in new ways businesses can increase customer engagement. 

This week, the Seattle-based coffee roaster announced its foray into Web3, dubbed Starbucks Odyssey, a blockchain-powered loyalty program for Starbucks customers and employees. Of the program, which Starbucks expects to launch later this year, the company says its aims include deepening its relationship to its customers with the help of secure Web3 technology and connecting members of Starbucks’s existing free loyalty program with each other. Brady Bewer, executive vice president and chief marketing officer, said in a press release: “Our vision is to create a place where our digital community can come together over coffee, engage in immersive experiences, and celebrate the heritage and future of Starbucks.” Customers can currently sign up for a  waitlist to join the digital community once it launches.

The coffee giant is yet one more example of a company finding a way to engage in the metaverse, a virtual space designed for community-gathering that stands to offer new marketing opportunities for brands.

It’s unclear yet how exactly Starbucks will connect customers to one another in its digital community, but some details on the customer loyalty end of the offering are known. On the platform, customers will be able to complete “journeys” like interactive games that will allow them to collect NFTs called “journey stamps.” In addition, members can purchase limited edition NFTs called “limited edition stamps” through credit card–no crypto wallet or cryptocurrency necessary. 

With those NFTs, customers will be given a chance to unlock special benefits and rewards, which can range from a virtual espresso martini-making class and exclusive merchandise, to a trip to one of Starbucks’s coffee farms in Costa Rica, the brand says.

So why enter the metaverse at all? There is potential for businesses to obtain strong customer insights by engaging with blockchain technology, Outdoor Voices founder Ty Haney told Inc. earlier this year upon the launch of her Web3 company, Try Your Best. Her business aims to help CPG businesses engage with customers on Web3 to build loyalty and get customer data that would otherwise be hard to secure, with the sunsetting of third-party cookies. She admits, however, that there remains a significant education hurdle when it comes to Web3. Chiefly, most customers don’t understand it, she says.

This could be why, aside from in its press release, Starbucks appears to avoid typical Web3 terminology–and unlike other food companies’ ventures into Web3 (see Taco Bell’s metaverse wedding sweepstakes and Chipotle’s burrito-rolling simulation in the popular game Roblox), the coffee company seems poised to use blockchain technology to unearth customer insights. “As Starbucks Odyssey evolves, the company will continue to gather feedback from members and Starbucks partners, which will help shape the future of this innovative, new experience for Starbucks Rewards,” the company said in its press release. 

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Author: Traciwininger

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