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05/09/2022

Starbucks eyes providing a ‘third place’ – in the metaverse

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Starbucks is launching NFT and blockchain programs.

Starbucks Corp. intends to utilize Web 3.0 technologies to establish a strong foothold in the emerging metaverse.

In a corporate blog post, Brady Brewer, chief marketing officer, and Adam Brotman, advisor, Starbucks Corp., described how the coffee chain intends to create a digital “third place” for customers to find a sense of community between home and work. Starbucks has long referred to its brick-and-mortar stores as a physical third place for customers.

However, with the growth of the metaverse - a sophisticated digital world where consumers will use augmented and virtual reality technology to digitally engage with each other and their surroundings, with crossovers into the physical world - Starbucks says it wants to create a new, global digital community.

Starbucks plans to begin its foray into the metaverse with what are popularly known as Web 3.0 technologies: NFT (non-fungible token) and blockchain. Following is a brief overview of the retailer’s plans for each technology area.

NFTs
Starbucks plans to create a series of branded NFT collections, the ownership of which will initiate Starbucks digital community membership, and allow for access to exclusive experiences and perks. The themes of these collections will be based on new and existing Starbucks artistic content, as well as through collaborations with other artists and brands.  

“We believe NFTs have broad potential to create an expanded, shared-ownership model for loyalty, the offering of unique experiences, community building, storytelling, and customer engagement,” Brewer and Brotman said in the blog post. “And, while doing so, also being a source of accretive business that can benefit a number of stakeholders in the process, while creating a new type of digital ecosystem to complement Starbucks current digital platform offering.”

Starbucks said it also may integrate its Starbucks Rewards loyalty program, as well as store designs and card art, into the NFT space.

Blockchain
According to Starbucks, its approach to blockchain technology, which serves as a real-time, single ledger verifying all transactions conducted on the blockchain network, is ultimately likely to be multi-chain or chain agnostic. However, the retailer plans to start its metaverse activity with NFT collections backed by blockchains and sustainable infrastructure.

“Our history with loyalty, mobile payment, mobile ordering and Wi-Fi has taught us how to engage customers at scale to unlock opportunities,” Brewer and Brotman said in the blog post. “Here too, a Starbucks Digital Community Web3 platform has the potential to pioneer the combination of an approachable, widely accessible front-end, backed by the right blockchain technologies that are fast and inexpensive.” 

Starbucks plans to take a phased metaverse approach, starting with its first NFT collection, membership and community later this year, based on coffee art and storytelling. The NFT collection will come with unique experiences and benefits.

“This first collection will form the core digital community and backbone against which we hope to build future collections and collaborations – all building on the same new ecosystem,” Brewer and Brotman concluded in the blog post.