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Starbucks Expanding Mobile Payment Program to More Stores

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz announced this week that the Seattle-based coffee chain would soon be expanding its mobile payment program to more stores over the coming months. Launched in September of last year, Starbucks users with iPhones could pay for their purchases via their mobile device using a special Starbucks Card mobile application. The app was initially accepted at just 16 Seattle and Bay Area stores which were taking part in the pilot program. In March 2010, the company expanded the mobile program to include 1,000 Target stores across the U.S.

Now, Starbucks plans to expand it yet again. “We know believe that offering mobile payment and mobile gifting capabilities will result in a more efficient in-store experience,” said Schultz.

After entering in a Starbucks card number in the application, the Starbucks Card app displays a barcode which can then be shown at checkout in lieu of handing over a physical card to be swiped. The app also allows customers to check their card’s balance, view transactions and reload the card with new funds.

Currently, the mobile payment aspect to the application works at 16 select stores in Cupertino, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, San Jose and Seattle where the feature has been in testing in addition to all Target locations in the U.S.

Based on the program’s “early success” and user feedback which Schultz describes as “positive,” the company is now committed to expanding the program in the months ahead. According to Schultz, not only does the mobile app make for a more efficient in-store experience for Starbucks customers, it will also provide the company with a significant competitive advantage and help further differentiate it from its competitors.

While we at ReadWriteWeb are certainly fans of mobile technology, it will be interesting to watch as this sort of mobile payment system takes hold outside of the very tech-savvy enclaves where it has been initially tested. Will mainstream users adopt this system in large numbers? Will it really be more efficient or will you be stuck in line behind folks fiddling with their phones? And where, by golly, is the Android version?

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