Starbucks Mobile App: Gift Cards Get a Bad Rep

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There’s nothing like a perfectly roasted cup of coffee to get your morning started.

It seems that every Christmas I receive at least one gift card from friends or family. While many would consider gift cards to be impersonal, a lazy man’s gift, or something a procrastinator would default to, I don’t mind receiving them, provided of course, that it is for one of my favourite retailers.

I think gift cards receive a bad rep. For example, anyone who knows me understands that a Starbucks card is the perfect Christmas gift.

Let me clarify, on their own, a gift card may not be as useful or as attractive of a gift. However, when it is combined with a robust mobile app, you have something that warrants being on anyone’s ‘wishlist.’

As a regular coffee drinker, receiving a Starbucks gift card was great. The gift was practical, something I would use and with Starbucks being one of my favorite places to enjoy a delicious cup of coffee, a card that would be used often.

On its own, I would agree, it’s just a gift card. It’s not until you download the iPhone Starbucks app and add your gift card that the true value of the card becomes clear. Now, you’re ready to experience the full benefits… below are some.

Gone are the days where you need to remember to put your gift cards in your wallet and carry them with you at all times. Instead you can– after your download the app– add the card to your phone. You can now begin to take advantage of what the card has to offer, starting with the convenience of paying for your coffee using your phone– chances are you would be less likely to forget your phone at home.

Do note that the Starbucks Card mobile app is no longer available for download; instead, Starbucks has introduced a new single app, Starbucks (for iPhone) app.  Managing your Starbucks Gift Cards (and there could be multiple cards) has never been so easy. Simply start by creating an account (after the app has been downloaded), and then enter your card (or cards) details and credit card information for when you need to reload the card.

When you place your order and are ready to pay, simply show your phone with the bar code (back of gift card) to the barista who will then scan the card and you will automatically see the amount taken from the card.

There’s also the ability to reload your card with preset amounts $25, $50, $75 or other denominations charged to the credit card payment you selected.

Not in a familiar neighborhood? No need to fret. You can use the app to search for the nearest Starbucks store and more so, by amenities you want– finding a location that serves the exact item you are looking for. How perfect is that?

Integrated into the app is the Starbucks Rewards Program where you can collect ‘stars’ for purchases made that result in free drinks… and it doesn’t stop there. You can also get nutritional information on menu items. Personally, I would rather not know how many calories are in the chocolate brownie that accompanies my afternoon coffee.

If like me, a good percentage of your salary is invested in Starbucks– for good or for bad– you can know exactly how much is possible via the app. It tracks your recent transactions – showing you how much you spent at Starbucks and what exactly you spent it on.

Then there’s the ability to build your own drink– fantastic idea, though I would want to get my drink added to the menu as a regular item– a venti bold topped with a double short espresso, please!
Gift Cards as collector items.
There is something to be said about the different designs for each of the Starbucks cards issued, especially around holidays (i.e. Christmas, Birthdays, Valentine’s Day) that make me want to hold onto them. What is great about the app is that once you add your gift card(s) the image of the card will also appear – there yours for the keeping.
What’s the social angle?
Currently, there is the ability to share the location of the Starbucks you are at, as well as your favorite drink both on Facebook and Twitter.  Herein lays the app’s shortcomings. With such a robust app, why limit the social integration to just sharing your location and your favorite drink? Starbucks has a great presence within the social media space; I would have assumed more integration.

Here are just a few ways the app could integrate social components beyond what currently exists.

  • The ability to locate friends nearby (who are using the app, or have checked-in via Foursquare to nearby locations) and plan to meet at the nearest Starbucks.
  • Allow me to not only create and share my favorite drink but to also, when I become mayor of a Starbucks, be rewarded with this drink.
  • More often than not, the service at the Starbucks locations I visit have always been good, why not give me the ability to share this review via the app to respective social networks (and furthermore, tagged with a specific #hashtag i.e. #StarbucksService).
  • Give me the ability to reload the card via Facebook, as well, give my friends the ability to send me and reload my card on my behalf as a birthday gift – of course, then automatically sync with the app so that it is up-to-date.
  • Why not integrate by allowing users to share ‘ideas’ and post directly to this community.

Gift Cards deserve more respect especially where there is a robust app complimenting it. Now, if more retailers who have gift cards can allow a similar mobile experience.


Di Gallo is the Director, Social Media Partnerships at Rogers and a contributor to the Social Media Week Global Editorial Team based in Canada. The opinions expressed here are her own. Follow her on twitter @digallo

Di Gallo

Director, Social Media, Indigo


Twitter & Instagram | @digallo A self-confessed online shopaholic in the social media space. I have a love for music, film, television, fashion, books, glossies and museums. Thanks to Netflix I find it difficult to watch any television series that won't allow me to binge watch. And, I do love me a damn fine cup of coffee.

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