Its not a new concept that major brands have been launching their own branded iPhone apps as marketing tools and new ways for customers to interact. Beth Snyder Bulik at the Silicon Valley Insider has a great post showing some of my favorite winners and losers here.
Today Starbucks announced the release of its second iPhone app, the “Starbucks Mobile Card” app – and I’m here to shout it from the rooftops - this is one of the best uses of mobile technology in the US marketplace today.
Lets take a quick look at some of the features available on the Starbucks Mobile Card app:
1. Check your Starbucks Card balance. While this one is a no-brainer, anyone who has a gift card knows how frustrating it is to use it a few times and suddenly have no idea how much money is left on it. Most gift cards generally have a toll-free number on the back, however its a time consuming process that requires you to type in card number via touch-tone every time you need to check. With the Starbucks Mobile Card app, simply do it once, and the information is constantly at your fingertips.
2. Reload Your Starbucks Card: No need to be in a Starbucks store anymore to get this done – simply use any major credit card and your account is fulled back up with coffee buying purchasing power. As a brilliant marketing ploy to get consumers to start using this – Starbucks is offering a $5 bonus credit to anyone who adds more then $25 through the app the first time.
3. (And here’s where it gets interesting): Pay with your iPhone. Yeah – that’s right – at 16 test store locations, you can now use your iPhone to create a 2D barcode (looks like they are using the QR code format) that is scan-able at the store register. It makes sense that this is a limited trial – each store had to be equipped with a special scanner that is able to read the unique code off of the phone. If this is a success – its not hard to see every major brand in the country that uses gift cards coming around to implement applications like this in the near future.
As a general question to Apple and the iPhone development teams.. I still wonder why the integration of RFID for contactless payment systems has not been integrated into the iPhone as of yet. It would allow consumers to store their credit card information into their phones (securely) and with a wave of your phone over a special scanner, make a payment without ever getting the plastic out of your wallet.
Current the 16 stores testing the mobile payment trial are these:
Currently there has been no word on if Apple takes any percentage of the sale, though I find it hard to believe that Starbucks would agree to that. Then again – it is Apple we are talking about here. Traditionally in-app-purchase has been limited to paid applications (the Starbucks app is free), but utilize the iTunes billing mechanism that this app seems to circumvent.