Starbucks Teams Up With Microsoft to Further Augment Mobile Payments

May 8, 2019         By: Steven Anderson

Starbucks has become the poster child for mobile payments, mainly because it not only brought mobile payments into the fold with such fervor, but because it also provided a cautionary tale in terms of what happens when mobile payments do too well. It seems to have turned around many of those issues, and now, new reports suggest that it’s expanding its technical profile even farther, including blockchain in its bean supply and a new kind of drive-thru system that can actually predict your order.

Starbucks is teaming up with Microsoft to deliver some of these impressive new features for customers, and this isn’t the first time they’ve gotten together, either. Kevin Johnson, the current CEO of Starbucks, is actually a former Microsoft executive. Given that both companies are headquartered in Seattle, the connection really isn’t out of line.

One project uses an increasingly common mobile payments technology—blockchain, the stuff behind cryptocurrency—as a means to trace coffee from its original source to a user’s cup. This is great for those who insist on knowing just where their beans came from, and may have some particular applications in the “fair-trade” coffee front as well.

The big winner, however, is a predictive system that can recommend certain drink options to those who take the drive-thru to order. Interestingly, this approach doesn’t depend on an individual customer’s order history, but rather on several more generalized factors working together.  These include points like time of day, the current weather, and even what’s currently available at the location in question.

Admittedly, the bean-to-cup plan doesn’t seem like it would generate a lot more customer interest and cash flow for Starbucks. The predictive drive-thru concept, meanwhile, seems like it would be a natural fit to connect to a mobile payments system like Starbucks effectively made famous. Being able to turn to a customer’s order history to make predictions seems like it would generate many more accurate predictions than “Gee, it’s cloudy, it’s early morning, and this is what we’ve got way too much of, so perhaps you’d like this.”.

Still, Starbucks is making advances, and that’s good news for the coffee consumer. Only time will tell just how well this works out, and who knows? Maybe Starbucks’ next advance will prove just what customers were after.