Starbucks on Thursday launched a beta test of its highly-anticipated Odyssey experience, which combines customer loyalty rewards with non-fungible token (NFT) collecting and other gamified elements.
The popular coffee chain opened up the Web3 extension to its Starbucks Rewards program to a "small group of waitlist members," including employees and customers, allowing them to engage in interactive "Journeys" that earn "Journey Stamps" in the form of Polygon-based NFTs. In addition, users also get "Odyssey Points" that will open access to new benefits and experiences in the future, including virtual espresso martini-making classes, exclusive events and trips to Starbucks roasteries and coffee farms.
"Starbucks Odyssey is an experience, surrounded by a digital community, where members can come together, interact, and share their love of coffee," the company said in a statement. "Starbucks is using meaningful elements of Web3 technology to reward members in innovative ways."
The company says it will send monthly invitations to others on the waitlist beginning in January. Members who were invited to the beta launch will also have access to the Starbucks Odyssey market powered by Nifty Gateway, where users can buy and sell their digital collectible Stamps. Odyssey participants can purchase Stamps directly with a credit card, without the need for a crypto wallet or using cryptocurrency, according to Starbucks.
Andy Sack, co-founder and co-CEO of Forum3, which helped to bring the Odyssey project to life, told CoinDesk that the idea was sparked by a desire to "delight the consumer with unique digital experiences." Sack started Forum3 with former Starbucks chief digital officer Adam Brotman, who led the creation of Starbucks' loyalty mobile app which boasts over 50 million registered users.
"Adam and I had been sort of deep in NFTs and digital collectibles since early January of 2021," he said. "We were contacted by [Starbucks interim CEO] Howard Schultz ... and so that set of relationships aligned." Brotman is also close with Brady Brewer, Starbucks' chief marketing officer, who was key in making the idea a reality.
Sack refers to the experience as a "next-generation loyalty platform" aimed at building a brand relationship between customers and Starbucks. He told CoinDesk that other brands are starting to integrate blockchain technologies, making Web3 experiences more accessible to a mainstream audience.
"Web2 brands are awakening to the opportunity for a clear use case of the blockchain. And it exists in the form of next-generation loyalty – we have a word for that, we call it experiential loyalty."
"Particularly, younger consumers are looking for ways to engage with their favorite brands get to be acknowledged and delighted digitally," he continued. I think that you're gonna see a lot more of that soon."