What Starbucks Can Teach Event Professionals About The Future of Cashless Payments

By July 23, 2018 No Comments

If I asked you which mobile payment app was currently most popular in the United States, what would you answer? Apple Pay? Maybe Samsung or Square Payments?

If you answered anything that isn’t the Starbucks Mobile App, you were wrong. In 2018, over 23 million people will use the Starbucks app for iOS or Android to purchase their pumpkin spice lattes – giving it a slight edge over Apple´s 22 million, and a major one over Google (11.1 million) and Samsung (9.9 million).

What’s going on?

While it’s no secret that Starbucks is immensely popular, it’s still quite shocking to learn that its cashless payments app has managed to beat proprietary solutions from companies such as Apple and Google, which themselves are far from being lightweights in their ability to shape consumer behavior and preferences. The article linked above identifies a few reasons for this, including:

  • The added value provided by the Starbucks App, e.g. faster queues as there is no fumbling with cash, allowing patrons to skip lines by making an order in advance.
  • The fact that the Starbucks app is available on both mobile operating systems, whereas its competitors are limited to either Apple or Android devices;
  • Misalignment between consumer and vendor preferences resulting in a fractured ecosystem – Samsung POS systems are more easily found, but most consumers prefer Apple Pay;

With additional retailer proximity payment applications already in development and expected to pop up in coming years, it seems that cashless payment systems are heading towards specialisation rather than consolidation.

Consumers are willing to adapt for a strong value proposition

Again, this conclusion might seem surprising or even bewildering. Why would people forego the payment apps that come pre-installed on the devices they already own, and accept the ´hassle´ of downloading a specific application just to pay at Starbucks?

The answer is value. Today’s consumers are highly informed and aware of the breadth of options available to them, and would be willing to take the extra step of downloading an additional mobile app, or otherwise altering their behaviour, if the value proposition is strong enough.

Starbucks understood this basic fact, and has thus managed to corner the market and get consumers ´hooked´ on its own app (as if it was a delicious caffeinated beverage), rather than relying on intermediaries, while providing a better experience for customers than could be achieved with third party solutions.

What Event Professionals can Learn from Starbucks Cashless Payments

What can event organisers and ticketing agencies learn from Starbuck´s success? For us the lesson is clear: don´t be afraid to venture ´off the beaten path´ when it comes to POS payments. It might be tempting to think that using Google or Apple Pay is a good enough cashless payment system at your events; but Starbucks has shown that these generic solutions will often take a back seat to a proprietary system that delivers unique value to consumers.

When it comes to events, that proprietary system is RFID payments. True, using payment bracelets takes some adjustment on the consumer´s side, compared to using the phones that they already have in their pockets. However, RFID opens up many possibilities to improve the event experience, including:

  • Shortening queues throughout the event
  • Increasing security
  • Providing an alternative to event wi-fi rental

…and they work independent of whatever device attendees happen to be carrying on them during the event.

The Starbucks app is proof that consumers appreciate value over the supposed hassle of slightly changing their payment habits; as event professionals, you should choose the cashless payment system that delivers the most value and best experience for your attendees.

To understand why RFID is the best choice for most medium-to-large events, check out these related articles:

Or get in touch today for an online demo of Token RFID.

Token Team

Author Token Team

Token is a global leader in RFID technology for events. With over 20 years of event experience, we provide cashless payments, access control and experiential activations to organisers all around the world.

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