Even before a pandemic hit and forced me to stay inside, I was going to Starbucks almost every day. As someone who has worked from home for the past four years, I welcomed every excuse to leave my apartment and wander around. Since Starbucks was the closest cafe to me, I became a regular, and the baristas knew both of my orders when they saw me walk into the store.
Part of my trust in Starbucks was that it was a place near me that I had drinks that I enjoyed. The other part was the Starbucks mobile app, which not only allows you to easily pay (especially if you place mobile orders during a pandemic) but also to keep coming back to learn more. Many companies have apps that “gamify” a customer’s experience, but Starbucks is one of the best. It’s also one of the scariest.
Many companies have apps that “gamify” a customer’s experience, but Starbucks is one of the best.
Gamification is when gaming and game design elements are used in other services or organizations. For example, if you got a gold star in class as a kid for doing well, that was gamifying your learning. If you’ve read enough books and turned it into a pizza party, that’s gamification. As adults, we are often thrown into gamified systems without realizing it. We use Thinkific on our websites, which turns all of our training materials into a quiz that you can beat. You learn how to do your job by playing a game.
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This has become even more popular with the proliferation of video games and the advent of mobile apps that can play just about anything. Many successful fitness apps, including Fitbit and MyFitnessPal, use performance systems that reward you by developing or achieving other goals. Zombies, Run !, one of the most fun running apps, succeeds because it literally turns running into a narrative adventure. The best fitness and mental health apps have used various forms of gamification. In fact, Habitica, a habit building app, helps you build habits by literally turning them into a role-playing game.
Another place you might see game elements is in reward apps, which often promise free products when you use them. This is nothing new; It’s an extension of punch or stamp reward cards that you can get from companies that have given you a free item when you’ve spent a certain amount of money or visited enough times. This is the core of the Starbucks app that you use to reward stars for purchasing products that you can then use for free rewards or discounts. It goes even further, however, by providing quests that you need to complete in order to receive bonus stars. Come in before 11am for three days in a row and get 60 bonus stars. Order three of a specific drink and receive 100 bonus stars.
It’s all a well-oiled machine that makes me want to buy more Starbucks even though I know it’s using my personal information.
The more you use it, the more the app gets to know you and your regular orders, like a barista in your favorite store. If you order more, the algorithm will offer targeted quests based on your favorites – albeit the more expensive ones, in my experience. For example, I order a combination of teas, coconut milk drinks, and tea laths, and when I get a targeted search, the tea laths are more than the plain teas. If I don’t go for a certain week, Starbucks sends me emails or notifications luring me back with bonus stars or drink recommendations. When it’s summer, it lures me in with the promise of a cold drink.
Starbucks seems to know you thanks to its 2017 Digital Flywheel program. It’s an AI that teams up with Starbucks Rewards to provide customers with personalized recommendations. A flywheel is a device that stores and stores rotational energy. This is exactly what Starbucks wants its digital wheel to do with customers. If it can keep attracting customers, it will be immensely successful, and it has. Of course, it’s Starbucks, so it will always be ubiquitous, but in 2019 it posted its highest net income ever at around $ 19.2 billion, according to Statista.
Source: Android Central
Sure, Starbucks uses your personal information to give you drink recommendations (and even uses it to determine the planning for its stores), but it wouldn’t be nearly as effective if it weren’t for the star system or even the regular sweepstakes and games it uses too. In April, Starbucks hosted its Earth Month Game, which included a raffle for people who had made purchases, but also a game called Play & Plant. Here you need to fill in 3×3 squares with point configurations to collect points. As you level up, you can choose where you want Starbucks to plant trees. As you make purchases and complete other “activities” you will also receive boosters to help you advance further in the game. With Play & Plant, the transition from gamification to full-on play is complete.
It’s all a well-oiled machine that makes me buy more Starbucks, even though I know it uses my personal information to improve the business or to make me buy more expensive drinks. When I get a notification that it’s “Double Star Wednesday” I cut out 30 minutes of my day to make sure I leave. Starbucks is not just a way to get me out of the apartment, it’s a system I shopped into. Gamification is not just a way of making an app or program more attractive to use, but studies have shown that it “has a positive effect on engagement” and “can improve the results associated with it”.
It’s not always effective in the long run – I stopped using every app at some point, and studies show that gamification doesn’t always work for long periods of time – but the constant introduction of new features and games helps keep the app looking for things. The sheer amount of Starbucks in the US also means there are plenty of ways to use the app, play the game, and earn some stars.