The popular Starbucks coffee brand has an equally popular loyalty program, Starbucks Rewards, available through its mobile app. Now it is the first to level up that loyalty with Odyssey, a community enabled by Web3 technology that integrates NFTs (non-fungible tokens).
The global coffeehouse chain has always characterized itself as a “Third Space,” a place between home and office, where people can gather for coffee and community. The Odyssey experience takes that space in the digital direction with cutting-edge technology. Giving back to Starbucks Rewards members and partner-employees in the United States, Odyssey will let people buy or earn digital collectible stamps as NFTs. These will be tradeable for unique coffee experiences, exclusive benefits, and other perks.
Earning stamps will not only strengthen the Starbucks community, it will be educational, fun, and immersive. Members might play interactive games, go on virtual journeys, sign up for virtual classes and learn how to make espresso martinis, or receive invites for members-only events at Starbucks Reserve Roasteries. When they complete activities and challenges, they’ll earn NFT stamps with different point values. As points accrue, members will be able to unlock more experiences. Or, they can visit the marketplace inside the Odyssey platform and purchase journey stamps that can be put towards other coffee-related experiences, such as trips to global coffee destinations.
Embracing the future web
For the payments industry, Odyssey represents much more than a way to keep customers buying coffee. Every merchant that embraces NFTs and Web3 marks an important turning point in the future of the internet.
If you’ve heard about Web3, but aren’t sure exactly what it is, you’re not alone. The way it will evolve is still unclear, but proponents say it is the next iteration of the web, one that combines intelligent computing on more smart devices on a foundation of decentralized blockchain technology. Whereas user activity on the current web (dubbed 2.0, the social web) is dominated by huge and powerful gatekeepers that own and govern apps and platforms, a blockchain-enabled Web3 has the potential to democratize ownership, giving more control to users and creators. Because the blockchain layer is essentially a decentralized ledger, networks of users govern transactions through cryptography and a system of digital checks and balances.
Web3 is driving the financial technology (fintech) industry forward with new, innovative payment arrangements and investment opportunities. People and companies are embracing cryptocurrencies, experimenting with peer-to-peer payment models, and using frictionless trading sites. And, like Starbucks Odyssey participants will soon be able to do, they’re buying NFTs in record numbers.
NFTs are similar to crypto in that they’re digital tokens owned, traded, and stored on the blockchain. The difference with NFTs, however, is that they’re absolutely unique. When an NFT is written to a blockchain (“minted,” in industry lingo), information is generated and stored along with it that authenticates the NFT as one-of-a-kind. Just like a physical asset with a certificate of verification, an NFT can be owned by one person at a time. NFTs inside Odyssey will be written to Polygon, a global Web3 infrastructure built on Ethereum, the primary blockchain for NFTs.
Before NFTs, there wasn’t much you could do with digital assets, and no thought of owning one. Since anything on the Internet can be copied, shared and kept for free, there wasn’t much point in financializing digital assets, or any means of doing it. However, blockchain technology and NFTs have flipped that assumption upside down. Now, with a way to buy, own, and trade digital assets, NFTs have emerged as an important new asset class.
Ecommerce innovators expect NFTs to become integrated with more experiences, from ticketing, to gaming, and shopping. For brands, NFTs represent an incredible opportunity to form strong communities and scale them globally. That’s why NFT membership, rewards, and loyalty program initiatives, like Starbucks Odyssey, have massive potential to encourage more people to get involved.
A leader in payment innovation
While most NFTs are purchased with cryptocurrency, Starbucks won’t require Odyssey users to have a crypto wallet or use cryptocurrency to take part in the experience. Members and players will be able to acquire NFTs using traditional credit cards. At the same time, they’ll know what it is to collect and own unique digital assets and exchange them for firsthand experiences in Web3. For customers and participating employees, the experience will enrich their connection with their favourite coffee brand and provide an ownership stake in emerging technology.
Any new technology takes time to find its use cases, but as Starbucks Odyssey shows, consumer-facing brands are finding ways to embrace the potential of NFTs. Starbucks is now one of a growing number of companies seeing the vast potential of this important new asset class to build and refresh their brands, build connections with and between customers, and contribute to technology innovation.
Starbucks has always found ways to integrate leading-edge technology into its business. It was one of the first stores to offer fast, free, wifi to customers. Its mobile app brought contactless tap-to-pay into mainstream use. In fact, Insider Intelligence reports that the Starbucks app is the second most-used mobile payment app at point-of-sale in the United States. With an impressive track record of retail innovation and community building, it’s no surprise that Starbucks is taking a lead in NFTs and Web3 as well, the newest innovations to hit the market.
In announcing Odyssey on its website, Starbucks executive vice president and chief marketing officer Brady Brewer had this to say: “This is just the beginning; Starbucks Odyssey is one of the ways we are reinventing the Third Place to meet our customers wherever they are – in a Starbucks store, on-the-go, or online.”
The waitlist for Odyssey opened on September 12 for members and employees who want to be first to experience Odyssey when it becomes available later this year. In the meantime – more coffee!