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Starbucks to create 'digital third place' with NFT plans

The Seattle-based coffee chain is planning to increase digital engagement with customers with plans to enter the NFT market later this year

A planned series of branded NFT collections will complement Starbucks' current digital platform offering | Photo credit: Shutterstock

Starbucks is planning to launch a series of non-fungible token (NFT) collections to provide improved “unique experiences, community building and customer engagement”.

In a blog post written by Starbucks Chief Marketing Officer Brady Brewer, the company said that the move would create a new digital ecosystem to complement the organisation’s current digital platform offering, such as mobile payment, mobile ordering and digital loyalty, and “create a new model of what it means to be connected to the Starbucks community”.

The series of branded NFT collections will seek to initiate community membership and allow for access to exclusive experiences and, as of yet, unspecified customer benefits.

Neither the blog post nor the company’s most recent earnings call indicate what sort of blockchain technology would be involved with the NFT collections, but Brewer said it was likely to be “multi-chain” or “chain agnostic” and will remain consistent with Starbucks sustainability commitments.

On the earnings call, Brewer said that Starbucks is “creating the digital third place”. Plans will follow the success of the Starbucks app, created by blog co-writer Adam Brotman, which is reported as the second most used form of mobile payment in the US, with over 30m active users. Last year, mobile transactions made up more than 25% of all Starbucks orders in the US.

The method of adoption for the NFT is likely to follow that of the app, which launched with loyalty and payment features, then later added the functionalities for ordering and marketing following customer feedback. Starbucks has hinted at a “phased approach”, whereby the company is “willing to move fast, experiment, learn and collaborate”.

Although the adoption of NFTs has risen in recent years, increasing 2,100% in the first quarter of last year from the last quarter of 2020, The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the NFT market was “flatlining”, with sales dropping 92% from its peak in September 2021.

Last year, Coco-Cola became one of the largest brands to experiment in the space between cryptocurrency and culture by selling a series of four collectible NFTs which offered a single “loot box”, a play on the popular video game feature involving sealed mystery boxes. Elsewhere, soup company Campbell’s collaborated with artist Sophia Chang and the NTWRK app to create an NFT collection that celebrated a newly designed label.

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