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Starbucks Launches First Dedicated iPhone App for Stored-Value Cards

By Jim Bruene on September 23, 2009 6:35 PM | Comments (3)

image This is a huge day, and one that I hadn't expected for at least another couple years. The convergence of mobile payments and caffeine. What more could a mobile banking geek and coffee connoisseur want? 

Starbucks pioneered stored-value cards and launched its first card in 2001. Today, it became the first company (note 1) to create an iPhone app exclusively for a payments card. Apparently, Finovate alum mFoundry helped build the app (cnet story, thanks Brandon).

Users were offered $5 extra credit on their first Starbucks card reload of $25 or more made from the new app. Registered cardholders received an email notification earlier today urging them to "turn your iPhone into a Starbucks card." (see screenshot below).

Note, the Starbucks Card Mobile app (app store link) is in addition to the regular myStarbucks app which has a store locator, coffee/drink info and a favorites-sharing function (app store link). That app also launched today (notes 2, 3). 

The app is gorgeous and shows how important design can be in creating a trustworthy and easy-to-use payment product (note 4). For example:

Home screen (left screenshot):

  • The card balance is immediately and prominently displayed

Reload screen (middle screenshot)

  • Uses big, easy-to-read buttons--remember, this is a small screen, with a giant green, full-width Continue button  
  • Current balance repeats at the top

Mobile payment screen (right screenshot)

  • The bar code for mobile point-of-sale payments (test only, see below) is rendered over a background image of the card, complete with card number, a nice touch to reassure users and Starbucks baristas that this is the real thing.

Analysis
Of course, the mobile commerce and banking community will be abuzz about the mobile payments test. At 16 Starbucks locations (8 in Seattle and 8 in Silicon Valley), iPhone users will be able to pay at the counter using a barcode generated on screen (right screenshot). Luckily, several Starbucks are within a couple miles of my home so I'll be able to report back with results as soon as the test locations are live.

But I think the stored value card management functions are more interesting for the present. Just think if you had an application that looked like this for your debit or credit card. Think of the brand-value uptick, PR notice, and word-of-mouth buzz. 

Starbucks Card Mobile screenshots (23 Sep 2009)

image    image   image     

Email announcing the new mobile card app (sent to a registered Starbucks cardholder in the mobile payments test market, 23 Sep 2009, 12:43 PM Pacific)

image

 

Notes:
1. Starbucks is the first company in the U.S. to have a dedicated app for a payments card. Although unaware of any elsewhere in the world, I would expect that card apps exist, at least in Asian markets.
2. The main Starbucks app is currently the 33rd most popular free app in the store and number 1 in Lifestyle; Starbucks Card Mobile is number 46 overall and 3 in Lifestyle (6 PM Pacific).
Update (9 PM Pacific): myStarbucks has moved to number 19 and Starbucks Card Mobile to 38.
3. The Starbucks apps are huge, 6.3 MB for the regular and 3.7 MB for the card, so makes sure you have good reception or are connected via WiFi.
4. However, I have been unable to log in to my actual Starbucks account as of 7 PM Pacific, owing perhaps to overloaded servers.
5. For more info on financial institution opportunities, see our Online Banking Report: Mobile Banking via iPhone.

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3 Comments

Hi Jim,

The 16 locations have the readers and they are active. Have fun. :)

Drew

wow.. this is awesome.. it feels we have come of age in a jolt.. :)

Jim-

Correction. Starbucks was the not the first to launch a payment card specific iPhone app, it was our company, Mocapay in May 2009. We launched the first mobile payments stored-value card in Q4 2007, upgraded platform in 2008 and launched a mobile gift card with a Conoco-based gas station, ShortStop, utlizing SMS/Text and/or WAP phones in Q4 2008. See American Banker article Feb 2009. We subsequently helped ShortStop launch an iPhone gift card app in May 2009. ink! Coffee, a premium coffee chain based in Denver/Aspen beat Starbucks to the punch, as well, by launching an iPhone supported mobile gift in August 2009.

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