In a world where we chant the values found in the convergence of big data, technology and loyalty, it is surprising how few companies manage to do it right. While most large retailers and food chains have mobile apps, CRM infrastructure (of some kind) and loyalty programs, we still seem to be marooned on the island of lost opportunities. All of these functions are meant to help customers, but let’s face it – they are also meant to increase the bottom line. With data, we were supposed to be more intelligent. With technology, we were supposed to be more agile in creating ways to connect. With Loyalty, we were supposed to receive bonuses by confirming our love for a company or service. With so many missing the boat, I am always amazed at how well Starbucks leverages all three – and I got played by them (and spent much more than I would have otherwise to do so) with their Starbucks Bingo. To see how much more, you’ll have to read to the end…

In all honesty, I knew what I was getting into when they established that it was “game on”. I already had around a dozen free items in waiting to be spent in my account and was not planning on purchasing any products for a while. Even in my normal Starbucks consumption cycle, I wouldn’t buy more than 2-3 items in a week. So let’s figure I would have spent around $10 in a week. Well… the week of March 7-13 triggered a spending pattern that far exceeded that – and it was all due to Starbucks’ intelligent use of data, technology and loyalty.

They have always been successful in driving purchases a certain product based on loyalty customers’ previous choices, but they really hook into a passionate response when triggering game play. Challenges are one thing, but gamification elevates things entirely.

In the case of Bingo, there were different items on the board requiring a range of actions. Some were just spending a specific dollar amount. Others required consideration of multiples, timing or types of orders. With the right consideration, a number of board challenges could be completed with just one purchase. And, each step and completion is reflected nearly immediately in users’ accounts due to the technology infrastructure that Starbucks has set up.

Being played is not a one way street. While a customer can be teased to spend more than originally planned by engaging in one feature, they allowed participation in multiple campaigns concurrently. In my case, there was a challenge to purchase four cold brews during the week and a “Star Dash” to make either two or four purchases over the weekend. As all of these were happening concurrently, many more loyalty points – or stars – were gained than would have been otherwise.

Without any special game, challenges or star dash, I would have gained the 94.15 stars I actually earned. That wouldn’t have even qualified for a free item. But, the bonus stars amounted to 410. The total earned 504 stars earned over the week account for 4 Free Items! Assuming that those four items would amount to a retail value of roughly $20 on the high end, the fact that $45.50 was spent to earn it, Starbucks still comes out ahead.

So, my per-capita spend increased at least $35 in the week. But, more importantly, I enjoyed participating in a fun game and had a seamless experience that increased my loyalty for the brand even further.

Now, I’ve got even more free items in my account, but you’ll have to excuse me. There’s actually currency that needs to be spent as I’m off on another Star Dash…

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