Starbucks embarks on its NFT Odyssey...but don't mention NFTs!

Stuart Lauchlan Profile picture for user slauchlan December 12, 2022
Starbucks has taken its first steps into its long-awaited NFT gambit.


Starbucks has launched its long-awaited Blockchain-based extension to its Rewards loyalty scheme, with coffee-themed NFTs that map onto real-world experiences.

Starbucks Odyssey was opened up to a select group of beta users in the US, with a platform where members can interact with activities known as Journeys. NFT is not a term being bandied around - Starbucks has renamed them as Journey Stamps.

It’s all an extension of Starbucks Rewards scheme, which has 60 million signed up members worldwide - 29 million of whom are in the US - and is reckoned to account for driving around half of the firm’s business. The fact that Odyssey is a widening up of Rewards, rather than a separate NFT-centric add-on makes it a big push for Starbucks.

On offer are rewards that are more substantial than a free cup of coffee and when rolled out to everyone next year Odyssey will be the biggest example of a push by a food & beverage firm into a Web3 loyalty program.

Starbucks CMO Brady Brewer said at launch:

Starbucks has always served as the Third Place, a place between home and work where you feel the warmth of connection over coffee, community, and belonging. The Starbucks Odyssey experience will extend the Third Place connection to the digital world.

How does it work? Odyssey members scan their existing Starbucks Rewards card, earning the member points.  At 500 points, members then earn Stamps. There are three levels of benefits/experiences that can be unlocked, from online experiences at the lower end, such as a virtual class on making coffee-based cocktails, up to real-world experiences, such as events, at the high end. Member points reset at the end of the year, but members keep their Stamps.

For the beta, the first Journey Stamps are all inspired by Starbucks history.

The Journey Stamps have a points value based on their rarity and will be able to be bought or sold on an Odyssey marketplace, which will launch next year. In another interesting differentiator from other NFT type initiatives, users won’t have to have a crypto wallet or own any cryptocurrencies to carry out transactions. A simple credit card is all that’s going to be needed.

CMO Brewer explained the rationale behind the new scheme:

Starbucks has a history of harnessing emerging technology to innovate on behalf of our customers and making it easily accessible and approachable for the mainstream. Our innovative spirit and the desire to continuously exceed the expectations of our customers has led to the launch of Starbucks Odyssey.

“Starbucks Rewards members are some of our most loyal and engaged customers, and Starbucks Odyssey is our next big innovation in loyalty to recognize, surprise and delight them. We are leveraging Web3 technology to reward and connect with our members in new ways, such as offering collectible, ownable digital stamps, a new digital community, and opening access to new benefits and immersive coffee experiences – both physically and digitally.

My take

As someone who’s never able to get around to engaging with conventional loyalty schemes, Odyssey isn’t something that I’m gagging to get to grips with. But it’s undoubtedly an interesting evolution of such programs and the latest example of Starbucks taking leadership in digital marketing initiatives. At present, this is limited to a small test audience. The proof of whether this is going to deliver on the promise that Brewer and his colleagues hope it will won’t come until next year when it opens up to the masses. Definitely a program that many other brands will be watching with keen interest in 2023.

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