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Starbucks Loyalty Points Going Beyond Its Cafes & Into Grocery Stores

4:25 PM, Mar 20, 2013   |    comments
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Starbucks has concocted one more way to coax you into buying Starbucks products even when you're not in a Starbucks stores: free stuff.

In what's believed to be a first in retail, the world's biggest coffee chain is extending its loyalty card program to the grocery store aisle. The move comes at a time when the multibillion-dollar loyalty card business continues to boom globally as cash-strapped consumers base their purchases less on brand familiarity and more on the financial incentives that their favorite brands offer.

Beginning in May, if you buy a bag of specially-marked Starbucks whole bean or ground packaged coffee at the grocery store, drug store or club store, you can still rack up Starbucks Rewards card points that can ultimately earn you a free cup 'o joe or latte or muffin at a Starbucks store.

By fall, the chain hopes to expand the program to other Starbucks grocery products. Next month, customers will be able to earn Starbucks points with any purchase at Teavana tea shops, a chain recently purchased by Starbucks.

"Over the past two years, we've been witness to a seismic change in consumer behavior due to technology," said Schultz, at the company's annual shareholder meeting. "As a result of that, we've been able to do things almost no other consumer brand has done before."

Like giving loyalty points for Starbucks brand products purchased outside Starbucks stores. The chain's three-year-old My Starbucks Rewards loyalty card program currently has 6 million members and is adding about 80,000 new members a week, says Adam Brotman, chief digital officer at Starbucks.

"You're not ashamed if your Starbucks loyalty club card falls out of your wallet," says Kate Newlin, a brand consultant and author of Passion Brands. "It not only has badge value, but you get something tangible for it."

Even then, technology doesn't make the loyalty points program entirely simple at the grocery store. It's not a one-step process. After making the grocery store purchase of the Starbucks coffee, folks have to go online and enter a special code from the coffee bag to earn the points.

Starbucks loyalty customers can earn one "star" for purchasing the coffee at the grocery store. It takes 12 "stars" to earn a free food or beverage item at a Starbucks retail store.

For Starbucks, says Newlin, it's a compelling way to keep customers loyal. Starbucks clearly has research, she says, that shows its customers must be considerably less loyal about buying bags of Starbucks brand coffee when they're at a grocery store -- and not at a Starbucks store. But with this one move, she says, Starbucks is luring folks to remain loyal "even when they're not at Starbucks."

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