A UX Case Study
Project Team: Kim Moy, Matthew Weber
February 2, 2016
How Starbucks Dominates Mobile Payments
Its all about rewards & convenience
We began researching mobile payments because we wanted to better understand the space and uncover people's motivations for using their phones to pay for things in stores.

In our surveys, we were surprised to find that Starbucks was by far the most common place that people made purchases with mobile payments. We set out to discover, not only why people use mobile payments, but also how Starbucks dominates mobile payments, and to make the principles reusable for others.

Survey Findings

A follow-up survey of 100 people1 helped us to explore what specifically motivates Starbucks app users. The app has a winning combination of rewards and convenience.

Rewards, including free drinks and downloads, were a huge incentive. 84% of respondents used the rewards feature, and rewards were the primary reason that 46% of participants first downloaded the app.

You can download the CSV file of the raw data too.

Convenience and ease were the most dominant themes when people were asked what they liked about the Starbucks app. For 19% of users, the ability to leave their wallet at home was the primary motivation for using the app.

Starbucks App Users Are Fans

The combination of rewards and convenience generated a level of loyalty from Starbucks' customers that was impressive. 91% of the people who responded to our survey said they would stick with the Starbucks App even if they could pay with another app. When asked to review the app, 43% of users gave it five stars and 48% gave it four stars.

The surveyed users were frequent patrons of the coffee shop as well as users of the app, with 61% having visited Starbucks in the last week and 84% of users having used the app for their most recent purchase. People are also now bringing the Starbucks brand and experience into their homes - 49% of people were loading the app with money from their home vs. only 31% from within a Starbucks.

It allows me to just carry my phone instead of a wallet or purse. It offers rewards to make my [purchases] even more worth it.

It's simply more convenient than digging through my purse/wallet for my physical gold card. It also has other perks: telling me how many rewards points I have, the store locator feature, balance display, etc.

I love that I don't have to use my debit card for every purchase. I love how easy it is to reload the card, and how I get bonus points for using my card.

How to Replicate Starbucks’ Success: A Virtuous UI Cycle

Considering the dominance of rewards and convenience in the psyche of the app user, we can see how the Starbucks UX design takes advantage of both these virtues to enforce a virtuous cycle of consumption.

On the home screen, we have a mechanism for stimulus (the Rewards speedometer) and for response (the Pay button), creating a system primed for classical conditioning (think Pavlov's dogs). It works like a two-cycle engine of stimulus and response, forever reinforcing itself.

The convenient Pay button acts as a response to the stimuli of the Rewards speedometer. Through our research we know that Rewards is the primary motivation for users in the Starbuck app.
When the user makes a purchase, the Rewards speedometer is updated, prompting further purchases. This stimulus is the most visually dominant element on the screen.

Takeaways for Leadership

  1. Rewards and convenience drive usage of the Starbucks app. These are the key virtues that users cite about the app.
  2. Prioritize rewards feedback along with convenient purchase options in the UI. It creates a virtuous feedback loop, with each transaction pushing the user towards further purchases.

1 We ran a survey that included a total of 100 participants, who were double-qualified with the questions "Have you made a purchase with the Starbucks app within the last month?" and "When was the last time you went to Starbucks?" Only people who had used the Starbucks app *and* been within a Starbucks location in the last month were included in the survey results.

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