The Starbucks Free Drink Postcard

Coffee is one of my three favorite things. See my Twitter bio for the other two.

I own my own company and work from home. In order to avoid going stir-crazy, I often take the 1/4 mile trek down to my local Starbucks. Suffice to say, I drink quite a bit of coffee on a weekly basis. So much so that it only takes me a few weeks to earn my free drink (15 purchases).

Instead of using a credit card or cash (or a plastic gift card), I use the Starbucks iPhone app (check it out). I love this app as it allows me to easily manage my account and pay with a few swipes and a quick scan. Easy and simple is good, in this case.

However, one thing that continues to bug me is this: When I reach the magical “Sweet 15″ … the number of starts necessary for a free drink, my iPhone lights up with this image:

Any guesses what I find somewhat annoying (and old school)? It’s 2012 and Starbucks is still sending free drink POSTCARDS … through postal mail! Postal mail = snail mail = $$. I realize it’s likely not a ton of money, but in digital age, there are surely more efficient, more cost-effective ways to deliver this free drink, right? Also, check out the fine print: Please allow 4-6 weeks for delivery. What? How about 4-6 seconds? It’s 2012!

A few things come to mind:

  1. The simplest – and most logical – is to update my account with that free drink. After all, if I’m paying with my iPhone app – which Starbucks should already know – why not just drop that free drink into my account? No need for a postcard. It’s just … there.
  2. Email! You knew I could not write an entire blog post and not include a mention of email, right? Seriously though. Why not automatically trigger an email marketing message once a customer hits 15 stars and earns that free drink?

3 Reasons Why Starbucks Should Deliver The Free Drink Postcard Via Email

Why email marketing? Besides the cost savings of using email instead of postal mail, below are three other reasons why Starbucks should consider using email marketing to deliver its “free drink” postcard.

  1. List Growth: One of the most critical steps to an effective email marketing program is email list growth. If you don’t have an email list, it becomes quite challenging to “do” email marketing. By sending the free drink postcard through email, Starbucks has a good excuse to collect customer’s email addresses.
  2. Tracking: While I’m sure there is some type of tracking code included on the physical postcard, if Starbucks used email to deliver the reward, it would have much richer data – if and when the email was opened and clicked, if and when the coupon was redeemed, etc. They could then use this data to send reminders (remails) to those customers who did not redeem, send a thank you email after redemption, etc. Lots of options.
  3. Up and cross-sell opportunities: In its free drink email, Starbucks could include other calls to action. If they really wanted to personalize the email, they could use data they already know about me (remember: I use the iPhone app) and upsell me on, say, a pound of coffee beans. They could use the email to alert me about Frappuccino Happy Hour. The opportunities are endless!

Now, it’s possible Starbucks has a very valid reason why they are using postal mail to deliver the free drink awards. If that’s the case, I’d love to hear the justification. However, why not make it easy and add it to customers’ account automatically or use email marketing to send electronically? What am I missing?

P.S. Did you know I’m running the Waldow Social Elevator Pitch Contest through Sunday, May 13th? It’s your chance to win $200!

DJ Waldow