How Starbucks (and any business) can take NFTs to the next level

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In September, Starbucks announced it would launch an NFT loyalty program by the end of the year. “Odyssey”, the coffee giant’s first official foray into web3, will marry the existing loyalty program with an NFT platform to allow customers to earn and purchase digital assets that unlock unique experiences and benefits.

The program will run on Polygon, a blockchain network Starbucks chose due to its low energy consumption and sustainability focus. “Building Starbucks Odyssey using technology that aligns with our sustainability aspirations and commitments is a top priority,” Ryan Butz, Starbucks’ VP of Loyalty, Strategy, and Marketing said in that regard.

There’s no doubt that the environment has been a key focus for Starbucks’ corporate messaging. And while an NFT program might work wonders to engage customers, the company is missing a significant opportunity it has with blockchain to bring more sustainability into play.

Don’t show me your punk; show me your impact

Last year was a great for NFTs. The market hit $40 billion—and retailers noticed. More brands are exploring how to incorporate non-fungible tokens into their customer experience. But the hype has, at times, overshadowed the full potential of NFTs.

Starbucks’ Odyssey will mimic a typical rewards program, adding in some novel web3-enabled elements. Finishing “journeys”, a series of activities such as games or quizzes, will earn members a digital collectible stamp (the NFT). There will also be purchase options, limited-edition drops, and more.

But NFTs can be much more than a digital art collection that gets the conversation going—they can forge stronger connections between brands and their communities around a cause both are passionate about.

Starbucks could, for example, bake environmental impact into their NFTs. They could craft an entire roadmap for their audience and support initiatives together—inspiring coffee waste recycling, driving sustainable packaging research, or replanting forests together. They could reward those who bring their own cups, create engagement leaderboards, share updates on a community project, and even allow for shared decision-making.

In short, Starbucks could show their customers that even as coffee drinkers, they can find ways to push conscious consumption forward and, ultimately, do good.

Brand loyalty goes through the roof when businesses align themselves with their customers’ values and find ways to mobilize action around those values. Adidas, Coca-Cola, and any other brand, including yours, can do the same.

Crafting powerful impact stories

With just a glance at Starbucks’ messaging, you’ll notice how human-centric it is. “To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time,” the company shares in regard to its mission.

If that’s really the case, Starbucks could take its leap into web3 even further. Digital assets unlock many benefits: The company could utilize blockchain to let its customers peek behind the curtain of its entire value chain—and reveal the human story.

Do you ever wonder about the journey your coffee took to arrive at your cup? Imagine you could walk into a coffee shop, scan a QR code, and immediately get your answer. Blockchain-enabled traceability opens a world of possibilities. You would see where the beans were grown, how much water was used, and who the farmer was. You could tip not only the barista—but even the person responsible for cultivating the coffee in the first place.

Starbucks has an immense opportunity not only to offer a rewards program—but also to use the same interface to tell the impact story of its products—and even the people behind them.

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