Starbucks builds out ‘third place’ with foray into NFTs

Dive Brief:

  • Starbucks this week teased plans to enter the web3 space with the launch of a collection of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) later this year, the company announced during its quarterly earnings call on May 3. Those who buy the digital collectibles will gain access to exclusive content and other experiences, though it’s unclear exactly what types of perks will be available.
  • The company noted it will establish Starbucks’ NFT community on an “environmentally sustainable” web3 platform — a move that, though light on details, aligns with the chain’s existing sustainability commitments.
  • Executives on the call explained how NFTs could help Starbucks extend the brand’s concept of the “third place,” a previously announced phrase that signifies a welcoming place between home and work where people can feel a sense of community over coffee.

Dive Insight:

While NFTs are one of the buzziest tech terms of the year, Starbucks’ announcement arrived the same day as a Wall Street Journal report detailed how the NFT market was “flatlining.”

The coffee chain’s foray into digital tokens appears to lay the groundwork for a broader web3 space, using the NFTs to double as access passes to special perks and experiences that align with Starbucks’ efforts to build a community around coffee.

“To achieve this, we will broaden our framework of what it means for people to be a member of the Starbucks community, adding new concepts such as ownership and community-based membership models that we see developing in the web3 space,” Chief Marketing Officer Brady Brewer told investors on the call.

Starbucks’ NFT entry complements the chain’s current app-based digital ecosystem and builds on its early-adopter approach to mobile technology. Its mobile payments system — the second most used form of mobile payment in the U.S. behind Apple Pay — helped to pioneer the idea of using a phone to order and pay for purchases before the tech was mainstream.

Executives appear to be looking at the company’s history of incorporating mobile tech into its business strategy with Starbucks’ rollout of NFTs. The company alluded to a broader “Starbucks Digital Community Web3 platform” possibly tied to in-store mobile payments, suggesting it plans to build out its platform to additionally offer more than mere digital tokens.


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