Buzzfeed reports that Starbucks is making their gift cards available as an iMessaging option. Instead of trudging to a store to pick up a physical rectangle, you can simply use Apple’s messaging service on your phone and deliver your gift electronically. It’s the sort of move that seems to mutually beneficial for the company and the consumer. Gift cards are a relatively safe catch-all option for gift-givers and eliminating the need to physically go fetch it (especially when you’re in a panicked sweat in the middle of the night) amps up the convenience factor.
As your last office Secret Santa exchange has likely demonstrated, gift cards are big business for Starbucks. The java vendor sees millions of gift cards sold on December 24th alone, not including the other 364 days on the calendar. Offering this option (which is already available in China) adds extra muscle to the Starbucks mobile app and might nudge other major coffee chains to follow suit. After all, it’s an amazing upsell: “We just had a great meeting, have a coffee on me!”
This seems as good a time as any to note that Starbucks has been burned in the early stages of phone-friendly rollouts before. The introduction of mobile ordering wound up causing traffic nightmares at Starbucks locations and led to major headaches at stores thanks to overcrowding. The simple transfer of internet mocha money through the Information Superhighway (ask your parents) will probably see a smoother introduction. The downside? You now have no exchange for not having a last-minute gift at a work function or early morning orgy.