Starbucks' mobile app customers order more items, order more expensive items, and order more often. Learn how to do the same in your business.
My mom is a Starbucks aficionado and has used the Starbucks app for years. She raved about how easy it was to use, how it made picking up her coffees fast, and how many rewards she racked up for free upgrades, drinks, and food.
I myself was skeptical.
I’m also not a coffee drinker so the app didn’t really appeal to me. I’m also not a food delivery person. I don’t do GrubHub, DoorDash, or Postmates because takeout food is never as good as dine-in and often not worth the price. Honestly, I was totally against putting food apps on my phone, yet today I have three of them.
What changed? You might assume it was the pandemic, but that’s not the case.
The first food app I added was for Little Caesars. I downloaded it because parking is horrendous in the Little Caesars parking lot near my house. Mobile ordering combined with their Pizza Portal makes picking up pizza and Crazy Bread fast and easy and I can send a kid in the store to type in our code and grab our order without parking.
The second was for Dominos, whose online and mobile ordering options account for more than 75% of all transactions. What I love about Dominos is that I can order at home, watch the pizza tracker so I know exactly when to leave my house, and click a button that says, “I’m Here” so my order can be brought to my car.
The third app was the Starbucks app. I know it sounds weird for a non-coffee drinker to use the Starbucks app but it’s been a lifesaver.
I’ve got some food allergies, including a dairy allergy, so I have to be careful about what I eat. The problem is that dairy is hidden in all sorts of foods that you wouldn’t expect it to be in, like McDonald’s Fries and Chick-Fil-A’s buns. Also, my husband eats no red meat and no pork, which also means no bacon and no sausage. With Starbucks, I know exactly what menu items are “Jen friendly” and my husband can get a breakfast sandwich with turkey bacon.
But that’s not the secret to why the Starbucks app is so amazing…
Starbucks App Success
Starbucks, which launched its order-ahead mobile app feature back in 2014, was the most used mobile payment app until ApplePay overtook it in 2019. Over the years, mobile app usage and enrollment in the popular Starbucks Rewards program has continued to increase.
During the pandemic, when some locations closed completely and others stayed open for drive-thru or takeout, Starbucks says it lost about $1.2 billion in sales because of limited operations, reduced hours, and even closures.
Analysts expected Starbucks to earn $6.06 billion, but despite the decrease in customer traffic, the company generated $6.2 billion for the quarter, a result of driving customers to its app. In fact, in an October 2020 earnings document, Starbucks revealed that nearly a quarter of all transactions at Starbucks stores in the US are now mobile orders placed through the app. It’s a boon for the coffee chain as app users are more than twice as likely to visit multiple times a week and 10 times more likely to visit multiple times a day.
The benefits of using the Starbucks mobile app boil down to speed and ease of use:
- It’s easy to browse the full menu of drinks, snacks, and food items.
- You can quickly find a location near you wherever you are.
- Customizing drinks is fast and easy with tons of options that I didn’t even realize were options. The best part is that I can order my drink exactly how I want it without having to explain my order to a Barista who inevitably inputs it wrong.
- If parking is a challenge, a passenger can hop out and pick up our order. If I’m alone, I can pick it up immediately because it’s already done and waiting for me.
- The app tells you how long it will take to prepare your order so you know when to head over to the location or when to walk inside.
- If the drive-thru line isn’t too crazy, you can pick up your mobile order without even getting out of your car.
- The ability to add gift cards to your account means consolidating all those random gift cards in one place and being able to use every dollar on them.
- Earning rewards, seeing rewards, and redeeming rewards is simple and fast.
When we’re road tripping and need to buy breakfast, I open the Starbucks app. Each time, I locate the next upcoming location on our route, pass my phone around the car so everyone can add their menu items, place my order, get directions, and leave a tip. It’s easy and fast and stress-free for those of us with allergies, but where Starbuck’s really excels is its user experience.
When I log into the app, the home screen is all about me.
- I see the stars that I have earned, the Star Rewards I have available, and my “usuals.” The app also stores previously ordered items and favorites to make future orders super easy.
- I see the special deals available to me, like “order three iced teas between May 24 and May 28 and earn 25 bonus stars.” And yes, I have ordered from Starbucks two days in a row just to get the extra bonus stars.
What This Means For Your Freelance Business
The other day, I read an article about how Starbucks app users spend more money than other customers. It got me thinking about how I use their app and my own business. It’s also what inspired me to write this post. If I can find that article again, I’ll add a link to it.
The article addressed the fact that Starbucks customers using the mobile app order more items, order more expensive items, and order more often. Basically, Starbucks realized that getting loyal customers to spend more money is a whole lot easier than acquiring new customers and that paid drink customizations make the company a whole lot of money.
If you use the Starbucks app, you may have noticed drink customization options have increased.
You can get double cups, extra shots of espresso, extra pumps of sauces and syrups, different types of milks, and special sweeteners, add-ins, and toppings — and many of these customizations come with extra fees. An extra fee of $0.25 doesn’t seem like a big deal, but when millions of customers order drinks with multiple paid customizations for drinks baristas are already making, profits soar.
Through its app, Starbucks has figured out how to increase the value of its customers by getting them to spend more money more often, and for freelancers who run client service businesses, increasing lifetime client value is critical for sustainable, long-term success.
Acquiring new freelance clients and making new sales is far more difficult than retaining existing clients and offering more opportunities for them to invest with you.
So think like Starbucks and ask yourself:
- How can I encourage clients to hire me for more services? Are there other services I can offer to help my clients achieve their goals?
- How can I package and price my services so clients buy more services and spend more money?
- How can I convince clients to hire me more often or sign a monthly retainer? What can I do on an ongoing basis that adds value to or removes work from my client’s plate?
- How can I make it as easy as possible for clients to find and get exactly what they need on my website or from me and take the next step?
- How can I incentivize repeat business or fast action and reward loyal clients who have been with me a long time or sign a retainer contract?
Little Caesars, Dominos, and Starbucks have mastered the art of giving customers exactly what they want, how they want it, when they want it, and with their mobile apps, they have made the purchasing process convenient, fast, and easy.
Competition is tough among freelancers and it’s only becoming more fierce as more workers venture out on their own to capitalize on the gig economy.
Freelancers that think like these innovative companies and understand their clients’ buying triggers will find greater success because clients not only want things to be convenient, easy, and fast, they demand measurable results from their investments.