Starbucks Ramps Up its Options in Mobile Payments and Beyond

December 18, 2018         By: Steven Anderson

We’ve talked about Starbucks at length out here because it’s basically the poster child for the benefits of mobile payments. It’s showed us all not only success, but success that ultimately becomes toxic by doing more harm than good, at least until changes were made. Now, it’s recently made some even bigger steps forward with new connections to Alibaba and Uber Eats.

The Uber Eats connection allows for Starbucks coffee, among other things, to be included as part of a delivery lineup. It’s said to be designed for areas where “drive-thru isn’t feasible,” potentially like tightly-packed urban areas where a storefront can be set up, but not necessarily a drive-thru. Reports suggest that not all drinks will be available for delivery, however, as they don’t “travel well.”

This actually mirrors some similar efforts already seen in China, where delivery has proven a hot new addition to the lineup therein. Seventeen cities in China have Starbucks delivery as an option, and Starbucks is rapidly opening new stores in China with another 2,000 set to come on-line by 2021.

Meanwhile, Starbucks expanded its foothold with a new connection with Alibaba. Alibaba, known for the Alipay mobile payments system, joined with Starbucks to open the first-ever virtual Starbucks in China. With the virtual store, users will have a “one-touch Starbucks experience”, using a combination of the Starbucks mobile app and several Alibaba systems underpinning it, including, not surprisingly Alipay. And yes, delivery is also part of the equation here, using the Ele.me delivery service from Alibaba.

These are all developments that work in lockstep with mobile payments; after all, you have to be able to actually get the things you order via a mobile interface, and delivery is a great way to do that. Sure, stopping into the store is all fine and well, especially if you’re out anyway, but delivery opens up the field to wider possibilities.

Starbucks has never been the kind of firm to shy away from innovation, and this demonstrates the point nicely. With new options in delivery and ordering alike, it’s demonstrating the value that innovation—including mobile payments—has for the field. It’s likely to pay plenty of dividends going forward, and shows us all how valuable it can be to stay ahead of the game.