Paying with your smartphone at Starbucks UK

When Starbucks announced recently that an Android app is now available in the UK to let you pay for your coffee and other products in store with that app, I was looking forward to trying it out.

And I finally did that yesterday at Starbucks in Hammersmith Broadway, west London, in a process that took less than ten seconds to complete:

  1. Load app and log in to your Starbucks account
  2. Hit ‘Pay Now’
  3. Hold phone to store’s barcode scanner and scan barcode that appears on your phone’s screen
  4. Done!


Using an app on a smartphone to complete a financial transaction is nothing new these days – think of Amazon and PayPal as two good examples. But having the process from end to end work so smoothly is a refreshing experience.

Too often you encounter a cool new way of doing something that uses your mobile device as the transaction medium, only for something in the experience chain to fail.

Typically it’s not the technology at fault but rather another part of the process, eg, an employee not being aware of the cool new way of doing something or not knowing what to do – which suggests a likely fault in the organization’s communication and/or training rather than being the employee’s

A ‘good’ example of a bad experience in this regard is QR code boarding passes: in my experience, I often get confused looks from airline staff at boarding.

In the case of the Starbucks Android app in the UK, end-to-end continuity was 100 percent yesterday. Not only did the store employee know about it – I imagine from experience with the similar app for iPhone that’s been available for a while – but knew exactly what to do and what to tell me.

All with a nice smile.

The app also lets you manage your card account including topping it up if you’ve associated a credit card or PayPal account with it, as well as manage your Starbucks Rewards loyalty points, and find a store location.

As mobile devices become ever more useful to people where completing a transaction of one sort or another becomes commonplace and simple to do, it’s the overall experience you have that will be the important element in the process, not the tool you use; and your overall perception of the brand and your desire to continue engaging with it.

A really good example of that comes readily to mind – the Foursquare and American Express promo in the UK with partners like Tesco where the process is all behind the scenes, leaving the great experience as the focus of your attention and remains in your memory.

So I’m looking forward to another such Starbucks experience again. Which reminds me, from looking at the screenshots, I ought to top up…

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Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Joseph Michelli

    Neville, I am the author of a book titled The Starbucks Experience and will release a new book about the company in 2013. I very much appreciate your blog and hope to use excerpts of it in the upcoming book. Might we engage a quick email conversation (my email address is in the hopes of securing permission?. With much gratitude, Joseph

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