Users can send each other Starbucks gift cards in Apple's messaging app

ON ME: Users can send each other Starbucks gift cards in Apple’s messaging app from April

Starbucks customers across the US will soon be able to purchase gift cards using Apple Pay and send them to friends and family within Apple’s iMessage platform. The move comes as the coffee giant reveals it now has approximately nine million mobile paying customers with one in three using Mobile Order & Pay, which accounted for 8% of all transactions made across US stores last month.

More than 1.2m gift cards have been sent and redeemed through Chinese internet giant Tencent’s WeChat Pay mobile payments platform in Starbucks China stores since the service launched there in December 2016, the company also revealed during its annual shareholders’ meeting earlier this week.

Ford drivers will also be able to order coffee through their Ford Sync 3 in-car system later this year by speaking commands to Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa, Starbucks revealed, and its MyStarbucks artificial intelligence-powered assistant is now also available to more than 100,000 customers across the US, with plans to roll out the feature nationwide by the end of the year.

“Starbucks continues to offer the largest and most robust mobile ecosystem of any retailer in the world, with over 13m Starbucks Rewards members, approximately 9m mobile paying customers — with one out of three now using Mobile Order & Pay — and more than $6bn loaded onto prepaid Starbucks cards in North America during 2016 alone,” the chain says.

A presentation given at the meeting by Starbucks’ Gerri Martin-Flickinger outlined the company’s digital innovation: “Over the years, giving and receiving Starbucks gift cards has become iconic,” Martin-Flickinger tells shareholders. “Traditionally, our customers have purchased gift cards from our stores and other retailers and now customers can also purchase them digitally in our Mobile Order & Pay app or website.

“Earlier this year, we released an add-in for Microsoft Outlook 365, which many consumers and businesses use for email. The add-in allows you to give someone a Starbucks gift card without ever leaving your email session, with just a few clicks.

“This spring, we’ll release Starbucks gifting for iMessage. This will allow our customers to give a Starbucks Gift Card within an iMessage conversation on an iPhone or an iPad. In this example, two co-workers are messaging one another.

“One coworker wants to thank his colleague for a job well done. Without leaving the iMessage conversation, he’s able to select a gift card and pay with Apple Pay with just a few taps. The recipient can redeem the gift card right from their iPhone using Apple Pay. This will be released in April — and that’s just the beginning.

“We’ve many more social gifting solutions coming all with the intent of making gift giving and receiving even easier for our customers — we’re driving towards these types of solutions all around the world.”

“Our highest volume Mobile Order & Pay stores are seeing more than 20% of their transactions through Mobile Order & Pay at peak,” Martin-Flickinger adds. “With this volume, we recognise the need to continue to streamline and enhance the in-store experience.”

Starbucks talks about its Mobile Order & Pay service and how it plans to use technologies such as artificial intelligence to enhance the chain’s digital offering in a Q&A which forms part of NFC World’s What’s New in Payments report. You can download the full report here.

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