The global coffee company looks to digital collectibles and to better engage customers.
Web3 will play a part in the future of Starbucks' popular rewards program, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said.
“We have been working on a very exciting new digital initiative that builds on our existing industry-leading digital platform in innovative new ways, all centered around coffee and—most importantly—loyalty,” Schultz said during the company’s Q3 2022 earnings call on Tuesday.
According to Schultz, the company will unveil the new digital initiative on Sept. 13, during its annual Investor Day event in Seattle.
The initiative will allow Starbucks to build on its current rewards engagement model while also introducing new methods of emotionally engaging customers, Schultz said, expanding its “digital third place community” approach and offering a broader set of rewards.
'Third place’ is a sociological term describing a community space between home and work.
The CEO says these rewards include one-of-a-kind experiences and Starbucks-branded digital collectibles as both a reward and a community-building element.
“This will create an entirely new set of digital network effects that will attract new customers and be accretive to existing customers in our core retail stores,” he said.
Starbucks' relationship with Web3 initiatives has not been met with enthusiasm from employees, however. In May, during a presentation that included a section on NFTs—unique blockchain tokens that signify ownership over an asset, an employee who only gave the first name “Mark” and who described himself as a technologist voiced his disagreement with the company's plans, citing the environmental impact of NFTs.
“Blockchain, whether it's proof of stake or proof of work, is not planet positive… it is going to destroy the planet… and it makes me, as a technologist, and I'm not the only one, very worried about that, that this company would go in that direction,” he said, “I don't want to feel this way about Starbucks.”
Mark also argued that NFTs are more exclusive than inclusive.
Several NFT collections have become high-value or “blue chip” collectibles, most notable the Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT collection. Last month, pop icon Madonna made headlines when she said, “I was hellbent on getting an Ape and really specific about what I wanted: the Ape with a leather motorcycle cap on and multicolored teeth.”
The ape in question, Bored Ape #3756, was listed on OpenSea and cost 800.69 ETH, around $1.27 million at the time.
Starbucks first waded into blockchain waters more than four years ago with a “bean-to-cup” traceability project to support smallholder farmers.
Whether customers, employees, or investors will embrace this latest Web3 initiative has yet to be seen. But Schultz positions it as part of a larger transformation planned for the corporate giant.
“We are looking forward to fully showcasing the power and the opportunity of our reinvention plan,” he said.