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Brand Watch: Analyzing Starbucks' mobile blueprint

Starbucks is one of the very few companies that has a well thought-out 360-degree mobile strategy, and while others are simply following the footsteps of their competitors, the coffee giant has taken strides to always stay one step ahead.

As technology continues to evolve, Starbucks is constantly looking at ways to innovate in the mobile space. The company has dipped its toes in several mobile mediums and has found success in each and every one.

?In the past few years companies have realized the potential in smartphone devices but in most cases have struggled to find a real tie into their capabilities,? said Charles Sankowich, CEO of Friendthem, New York.

?Starbucks is creating a 360-degree marketing strategy by offering a number of different functions that consumers can use though their mobile device which will create relationships with the brand,? he said. ?Starbucks? main objective is to have consumers connect with the brand on a digital level.

?As they continue to lead the mobile pack implementing new strategy?s geared towards smartphone devices, that almost all Starbucks goers have out will continue to develop.?

Mr. Sandkowich is not affiliated with Starbucks. He commented based on his expertise on the subject.

Starbucks did not respond to press inquiries.

One size does not fit all
Although many marketers believe that a mobile application makes up an overall strategy, it does not.

Nowadays, companies jump on the mobile bandwagon and roll out a mobile app. However, not everyone has an iPhone or Android device.

Marketers should be able to reach consumers no matter what device they carry.

And, instead of simply rolling out a mobile app, marketers should test out different channels and see what works for them.

In the past few years, Starbucks has been rolling out several mobile initiatives that target consumers on a variety on handsets.

The coffee giant has added SMS, mobile bar codes, mobile payments, augmented reality, a mobile site and app to its repertoire in the past few years.

SMS can hands down be considered one of the most effective mediums to drive engagement.

Via SMS, marketers are given an opportunity to reach consumers no matter what device they have ? whether it is a smartphone or feature phone.

Starbucks has used SMS to build its My Starbucks Rewards program.

Earlier this year, the company encouraged consumers to sign up for its My Starbucks Rewards program via an in-store call to action.

Through the My Starbucks Rewards program, consumers can earn rewards when they pay with their Starbucks Card. Free drinks and refills are one of the perks of the program.

Coffee fans were encouraged to opt-in to the My Starbucks Rewards program by texting the keyword GOLD to the short code 697289.

By using a mobile call to action, Starbucks was able to ramp up its program efforts.

Most recently, the coffee giant tapped SMS again to promote its upcoming Frappuccino Happy Hour.

Starbucks sent out an email blast to its My Starbucks Rewards consumers informing them of the event.

SMS is a great medium to engage consumers and helps marketers build their database.

Additionally, the channel is an effective way to continue a conversation with consumers ? even after a promotion of event has ended.

Mobile bar codes
While many marketers are placing mobile bar codes on just about anything, Starbucks strategically placed them on bookmark fliers it was giving out to consumers.

The fliers not only helped promote the company?s new coffee roast such as Blonde, Medium and Dark, but also featured a mobile bar code that let users vote for their favorite roast.

From there consumers were also able to watch a video to learn more about the company?s coffee.

Using mobile bar codes as a way to have consumers participate is effective, especially in a campaign such as this that encourages consumers to vote for their favorite roast.

Augmented reality
To gear up for the holidays, Starbucks introduced an augmented reality app last year to make its holiday red cups and coffee come to life.

For the initiative, the Starbucks Cup Magic app let consumers discover holiday characters, which were found on the red cups, coffee bags and signage.

After the holidays, Starbucks continued its augmented reality push.

During the days leading up to Valentine?s Day, the company encouraged consumers to use the augmented reality app once again to interact with its limited-edition hot cups.

Users were able to see their Valentines magically come to life through augmented reality.

Currently, augmented reality is a hot-ticket item.

The initiative was a smart move on Starbucks? part because it let consumers interact with their coffee cups in a new and interesting way.

Mobile payments
Although Starbucks has found success in a variety of mediums, it is no surprise that the company is dominating in the mobile payments space.

In 2010, Starbucks unveiled the largest combined mobile payments and loyalty program in the United States.

With the Starbucks Card Mobile app, users can check their balance, reload their card and view transactions.

The program started with 16 select Starbucks stores in Silicon Valley and Seattle and at any U.S. Target Starbucks store and expanded to 6,800 company-operated stores a year later.

In April, Starbucks? mobile payments strategy continued to gain steam, with reports stating that the coffeehouse chain has processed 42 million payments processed via its mobile app.

The mobile app makes it easier for consumers to pay for their favorite beverage via their mobile device.

Starbucks is showing that as technology continues to advance, consumers will turn to their handsets to pay for purchases.

?I think that Starbucks is definitely a leader in North American mobile payments,? said Drew Sievers, cofounder/CEO of mFoundry.

?They have an unprecedented collection of smartphone toting daily buyers who happily use a prepaid card,? he said. ?When you combine that with Starbucks' absolute control over the point of sale, as well as their ability to steer toward a preferred tender type, you have a perfect storm for successful mobile payments.

?To have a successful and broad reaching mobile marketing plan, a brand should absolutely evaluate all the mobile modes available that can help deliver on their messaging and relationship goals.?

Final Take
Rimma Kats is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York