Starbucks will offer its rewards app users a portal to Web3

With Starbucks Odyssey, the coffee chain dives into NFTs and blockchain technology.
A person walks out of a Starbucks location in New York City. 
A person walks out of a Starbucks location in New York City. 
Photo: Spencer Platt (Getty Images)
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Starbucks, which is trying to revitalize the customer experience at its nearly 34,000 physical locations, is also about to enter the ethereal world of blockchain technology.

The coffee chain is making its Starbucks Rewards app a part of the gateway to its Starbucks Odyssey program. Customers will be able to use their Rewards app login credentials to access the new Odyssey platform and buy limited edition Starbucks non-fungible tokens (NFTs) that will earn them points, which in turn will provide access to various events, immersive digital experiences, and merchandise.

The company also plans to offer “Journey-stamps” that will be earned by completing interactive game tasks. It’s the kind of marketing that may appeal to Starbucks cup collectors who already make a habit of exploring the brand’s stores around the world in search of new merch.

Web3 is part of Starbucks’ plan to jumpstart its business 

The Odyssey program is part of a “reinvention” plan announced by outgoing CEO Howard Schultz in July. The efficacy of the NFT project will be the first test of incoming CEO Laxman Narasimhan as he takes over in October.

Despite a robust recovery from pandemic lockdowns in 2021, Starbucks’ stock has dropped 20% in the past year, partly on concerns about customer reactions to the chain’s price increases and the ongoing tumult related to its interactions with newly unionized workers in over 200 stores.

This is one of the first of what are likely to be many NFT-based loyalty programs

We’ve argued before for the idea of using blockchain technology to gamify customer loyalty programs. It’s a potentially efficient route to customer retention in the future. But ease of use will be important.

The coffee chain seems to recognize this. Starbucks Odyssey will allow users to buy NFTs with their credit cards, rather than going through the sometimes onerous process—especially for blockchain newbies—of setting up a crypto wallet.

The waitlist to join Starbucks Odyssey opened this week. But the process that will let customers “own” the NFTs without securing them in a crypto wallet has not yet been detailed.