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Loyalty Technology

How to Create a Loyalty Program App Like Starbucks Rewards

Written by 
Brad Davis
February 16, 2020

It’s difficult to talk about loyalty programs without mentioning Starbucks Rewards, arguably one of the most successful digital loyalty apps in the world.

Of all the smartphone users that regularly use restaurant loyalty apps, nearly half of them are using Starbucks Rewards – that’s a lot of people! The app is responsible for a significant amount of the coffee chain’s $22 billion revenue.

We recently published an article exploring what it is about the revolutionary Starbucks app that has changed the game for brand loyalty and customer retention, and how they pulled it off.

In this article, we will explain how you can implement a highly interactive digital loyalty app like Starbucks Rewards for your own business.

The most important point we’re going to discuss here, however, is that even small businesses with small budgets can have a highly interactive digital loyalty app like Starbucks Rewards.

screenshot of starbucks rewards app
Image Source: Starbucks

So… What are Starbucks Rewards’ greatest drawcards that set it apart from other loyalty programs?

First, let’s touch on why you want an app like Starbucks Rewards in the first place. For a more detailed breakdown, check out our Starbucks Rewards case study. In a nutshell though, there are several key reasons why this loyalty app is so effective.

1. The Convenience of In-App Ordering

By allowing customers to browse the menu, place their order and pay for it all through the app, members of Starbucks Rewards no longer need to wait in line.

Points are accrued in real-time, and the customer experience is much more convenient than the typical “busy coffee shop” image that springs to mind of a long, twisting queue of impatient customers from the POS to the sidewalk outside.

With Starbucks Rewards, customers can even order from the train or as they step out of their house to swing by their local Starbucks a few minutes later.

2. The Personalization of Tailored Rewards

a pair of red shoes standing out in a line of white shoes
The power of an outstanding rewards program - Source: Forbes

From free refills to exclusive invitations to trial new products recently added to the menu, Starbucks Rewards members enjoy a whole host of enticing rewards that appeal to different customers for different reasons.

With every new transaction made through the app, each coffee-lover’s individual customer experience with Starbucks gets increasingly personalized as they grow a digital profile. This level of targeted engagement simply can’t be mimicked by a standard loyalty program system of “Buy X, Get Y”.

3. The Simplicity of Registration & Ongoing Engagement

Right from your decision to sign up to Starbucks Rewards, the whole process is remarkably simple.

Customers download the app, register, and start accruing points/redeeming rewards instantly. The entire signup process can be completed while you wait in line at your local Starbucks.

From there, the process remains delightfully straightforward – purchases get you stars, and stars get you rewards. The more you spend, the more you’re rewarded.

4. The Delight of Surprise Offers

starbucks happy hour promotional material
A surprise offer - Source: Starbucks

Surprise and delight is always effective when it comes to building brand loyalty and customer retention, and Starbucks has long been known for its spontaneous offers and limited-time deals.

But once the loyalty app was rolled out, Starbucks was able to take this “surprise and delight” technique to a whole new level.

Bonus Star days, birthday rewards and gamification methods like, “Try these 3 menu items before the end of the week and enjoy a free caramel macchiato on us!” keeps customers excited and engaged.

5. The Reassurance of Consistent Communication

Once you’re part of Starbucks’ loyalty program, you’ll find that it’s very unlikely you’ll forget it anytime soon.

The coffee chain puts a lot of effort into ensuring its coffees and snacks don’t slip to the back of your mind.

Starbucks Rewards members can expect push notifications to remind them of points that are about to lapse, instructions on what they need to do to make sure this doesn’t happen (i.e. swing by for another coffee before the end of March), and a heads up on new or seasonal additions to the menu.

With all of this communication going on – and perhaps more importantly, the fact that it’s directly to the customer’s pocket – it’s no wonder that Starbucks Rewards’ 16 million-plus members are so engaged!

Okay, so we’ve covered why it’s an enviable rewards app. How can you create one that’s just as effective for your own business?

earning a reward on digital app
Earning a reward on a digital loyalty app

As soon as we tackle this question, it’s worth mentioning that this largely depends on what kind of business we’re talking about.

To build a custom app typically costs upwards of $15,000 plus ongoing license and support fees that will keep your monthly overheads in the thousands. You can find out more about the specific costs associated with a custom built app solution here.

While this solution might be viable for large-scale commercial businesses, where does that leave smaller businesses that still want to engage their customers in the same way?

This is where digital loyalty app providers like Stamp Me Loyalty Solutions save the day.

A digital loyalty app provider is a business that offers a mobile app-based loyalty program to retailers and other types of businesses on a subscription basis. This subscription gives businesses access to a loyalty app for their customers to download and sign up to, where they can accrue points and redeem rewards much the same way that Starbucks Rewards’ star system operates.

The difference is that these digital loyalty app solutions typically cost between $43 and $74 per month, with startup costs generally being no higher than $100.

In many cases, these digital loyalty app providers offer highly sophisticated platforms that allow businesses to treat their customers to all the same kinds of perks and benefits that Starbucks Rewards members enjoy.

Hands holding phone with digital loyalty card over a coffee
A digital loyalty card on a mobile device

As an example, the Stamp Me loyalty card app boasts the following features:

1. Birthday Club

Much like Starbucks Rewards, businesses that use Stamp Me can choose to send an automated prize or reward to loyalty program members on their birthday.

2. “Scratch & Win” Instant Prizes Function

Merchants have the ability to periodically send loyalty program members spontaneous “Scratch & Win” instant prize competitions, where the customer has a 1 in 3 chance to win a free item (for example).

These competitions are completely customizable as the merchant pleases, and a link can be automatically sent out to all customers via SMS or push notification.

3. Tailored Rewards via Customer Data Insight

With the Stamp Me loyalty platform, businesses gain access to valuable customer data that allow for insights such as what customers are and aren’t buying, what sides or accessories they tend to purchase, which time of day/week/month/year they like to make purchases, their ATV (average transaction value), FOV (frequency of visit) and so on.

With this information, you can personalize each customer’s experience with your brand, which is one of the key reasons why Starbucks Rewards is so successful.

4. Simplicity

Not only is the Stamp Me loyalty platform easy for the merchant to set up and use, but it’s also remarkably straightforward for the customers.

From signup, to points accruement, reward redemption, communication and additional perks like Scratch & Win, the Stamp Me app is simple for all parties.

5. Versatility

If you are running a business across multiple locations, Stamp Me can be implemented across numerous sites. This allows customers to enjoy a seamlessly synchronized customer experience from one store to another, where points are carried over and rewards can be redeemed wherever necessary.

Businesses can also implement this loyalty program across a widespread network with numerous brand banners.

What kinds of businesses can benefit from an app like Starbucks Rewards?

screenshots of paw care customer app
Paw Care Rewards App

As an example, Stamp Me has a long and diverse list of long-term clients from coffee shops and record stores to pharmaceutical companies and livestock food providers.

The benefits of having an app similar to Starbucks Rewards go far beyond the same reason that it works so well for Starbucks – an app like this is hugely beneficial for companies that sell their products through an intermediary (like a supermarket, pharmacy or sporting goods store, for example) but want to directly engage their customers.

Whether you are a large-scale business looking to create a highly sophisticated loyalty app that rivals the likes of Starbucks Rewards, or you’re a small independent business eager to impress customers with a convenient mobile-based loyalty program that keeps them coming back for more, Stamp Me has the ideal solution to suit your specific needs.

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