How the Starbucks Odyssey NFT Program Drives Brand Engagement, Affinity and Ultimately Loyalty
Global brands that are looking for new innovative ways to drive customer engagement and loyalty are increasingly experimenting with Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) to better understand the sort of business outcomes that can be derived from blockchain technology. To better understand how such NFT-based customer engagement programs can improve brand affinity, Blockchain Journal writer Sophie Waldman reviews the Starbucks’ Odyssey project from the customer’s perspective.
By Sophie Waldman
Published: October 12, 2023
8 min read
In this Article
- For Chief Marketing Officers and their teams, there’s more to understand than the implementation mechanics of putting an NFT-based customer loyalty and engagement program into place. Once the program is up and running, what emotions is the program eliciting with customers?
- In its “beta” form, the Starbucks Odyssey NFT-based customer engagement and loyalty program is available to a limited subset of Starbucks’ customers (there’s a waiting list to gain access to the project). Blockchain Journal writer Sophie Waldman, an active participant in the Odyssey program, gives her perspective of the project from the customer’s point of view.
- Overall, Starbucks’ Odyssey program has turned Sophie, previously a fan of the Starbucks brand, into more of a super-fan. Sophie found herself to be more engaged with the brand, more aligned to its values (e.g. sustainability), and ultimately spending more money on coffee and other drinks.
- In her review, Sophie explains how, in its attempt to make the program accessible to anyone regardless of their understanding of NFTs, Starbucks insulated her from the complexities of blockchain and cryptocurrency. The review explains how Starbucks uses “Journeys” to win free NFTs while accumulating points that lead to different tiers of tangible rewards and benefits.
Editor’s Note: This review of the Starbucks Odyssey NFT program from the customer’s point of view first appeared on LinkedIn. We were so inspired by Sophie Waldman’s article that we reached out to not only reprint an edited version of her review but to also enlist Ms. Waldman’s help in writing more reviews of other blockchain customer experiences (BCE) from that same customer-based PoV. Blockchain Journal’s research has revealed that there are many enterprises experimenting with the idea of using blockchain to improve their customer loyalty and engagement initiatives. Whereas our Enterprise Blockchain Adoption Tracker is designed to help enterprises understand what other enterprises are doing and what those experiences have been like from an implementation and business perspective, Ms. Waldman’s posts here on BCJ can help enterprises and global brands understand what works and what doesn’t based on her real-world experiences.
On December 8, 2022, Starbucks launched its first Web3 experience, Starbucks Odyssey. As a self-proclaimed coffee aficionado, I couldn't resist diving into the largest name in coffee’s NFT-based rewards program. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Odyssey project, it’s a personalized rewards program that offers members a gamified experience of interactive activities and challenges to deepen their coffee knowledge and connection to the Starbucks brand.
By completing “Journeys,” members are rewarded with exclusive “Stamps” (Starbucks’ friendly name for NFTs) – almost all of which can also be purchased on the secondary market within the Starbucks Odyssey marketplace, which itself is a branded version of the white-labelable version of the Nifty Gateway NFT marketplace.
Once users are logged in to The Starbucks Odyssey website, they are presented with a user interface with three tabs: one for their Journeys, one for their Stamps (NFTs), and one for the market where Starbucks-minted NFTs are bought and sold.
As members participate in Journeys, they earn points and increase their collection of Stamps that can be redeemed to unlock unique benefits and new experiences that are missing from the current star-based “Rewards” program on the Starbucks app.
A Web3 Adventure
At the time I originally wrote this article (June 2023), I had been a participant in the Odyssey Beta program for 6 months and experienced an exciting, educational, and ultimately loyalty-generating journey. While my coffee friends rolled their eyes, my inner degen dragged me back to Starbucks daily for the caffeinated Web3 adventure (and significant expenditure of my disposable income).
Thanks to my participation in the Starbucks Odyssey NFT program, I had a true reason to stop saving money by making coffee at home.
How the Starbucks Coffee Heritage Journey Improved My Brand Understanding
To kick off my Odyssey experience, I started with the first two Journeys: "Coffee Heritage" and "From Bean to Cup."I started with this Journey to “set up” my Odyssey experience. I embarked on an immersive metaverse-based tour of the Starbucks coffee farm, trivia, puzzle games, and trying some delicious beverages in the store. While awaiting the full 5 weeks of trying at least one Signature drink a week to complete the “Coffee Heritage” Journey, I took a stab at the next Journey.
Starbucks Odyssey participants who complete the Coffee Heritage Journey earn a “Stamp” (the Starbucks lingo for “NFT”) to commemorate their achievement.
The Starbucks “From Bean to Cup” Journey
I personally found this Journey to be awesome as I learned about Starbucks' production from start to finish. Since I never had a glimpse into Starbucks’ Costa Rican-based bean production processes or asked about the brand’s history, this was super intriguing.
The Stamp that Starbucks Odyssey participants earn for completing The “From Bean to Cup” Journey.
I was even prompted to buy a bag of ground coffee beans from a store to test the bean-to-cup “traceability” feature that’s unlocked by using my smartphone to scan the barcode of each bag of beans I purchased.
After completing the "Coffee Heritage" and "From Bean to Cup" Journeys, I received points as well as one Stamp for each completion.
Sadly, I didn’t remember to finish the “Signature Showdown” Journey ahead of its close time.
This Journey pitted hot and cold drinks against each other, and as a participant in the program, I had the opportunity to cast my vote for my favorite beverage.
The Starbucks Odyssey program isn’t just about loyalty. It’s also about creating and engaging a vibrant community of participants with shared interests in the Starbucks brand and, of course, coffee.
Across the entire community of participants in the Starbucks Odyssey program (most of whom congregate on the Starbucks Odyssey Discord server), the famous Starbucks Caramel Macchiato was crowned the ultimate crowd-pleaser.
I also completed the “Doing Good” Journey, which focused on the values of global sustainability and environmental friendliness and helped me to understand how my personal interests were aligned to the corporate values of Starbucks.
To complete the Starbucks “Doing Good” Journey, I had to bring my own reusable cups to Starbucks on three separate occasions. Unlike the online components of the other Journeys, this task could only be completed by ordering the drinks at a physical Starbucks point-of-sale.
After trying some of my favorite dairy-free drinks, I began the Doing Good Journey’s “Bring Your Own Cup” activity, which challenged me to bring a reusable cup in-store for three visits. I am always down for a motivating way to positively impact our environment, so I not only appreciated this journey, but I also developed an additional affinity for the Starbucks brand given the kindred nature of our sustainability values.
On April 13th, the first “Benefit Selection Period” opened, unveiling the numerous claimable rewards that were available to program members based on their level of participation so far (based on points earned through the various activities, Journeys, and acquired Stamps). The options were diverse and enticing, from virtual coffee classes and live tastings to Starbucks Reserve experiences and personalized Coffee Travelers.
As Starbucks Odyssey NFT program participants complete different Journeys and acquire certain NFTs, they accumulate points that essentially represent a customer’s level of engagement with the program. The more engaged a customer is, the more points they get, and eventually, the more benefits s/he is entitled to (e.g., 30 days of free drinks, virtual coffee tastings, the chance to name a coffee tree on Starbucks’ farm in Costa Rica, etc.).
During the first Benefit Selection Period, I was under the assumption that I could save my points for a higher-ticketed reward in the future. However, I learned that you do not trade points in for benefits. Instead, you maintain your point level for the next Selection Period – on top of receiving whichever benefit you choose.
Regardless of whether the program rules weren’t adequately communicated to me or it was just my misunderstanding, I couldn't help but be thrilled by the array of prizes that were available during the Benefit Selection Period, but were never available through the traditional loyalty program in the Starbucks app.
In March, during the crypto bear market, Starbucks launched the Siren collection – the first of its NFTs that could be purchased (for US$100 each) – of 2,000 unique digital art collectibles. The Siren collection paid homage to the iconic Starbucks logo, a siren that’s often mistaken for an ordinary mermaid. According to Starbucks’ definition and explanation of its logo choice, “The siren is like a super mermaid. A mermaid with one tail is just a plain ol' mermaid. (Sorry, Ariel.) But a siren is often depicted with two tails.” Learning this detail is a good example of how the Odyssey NFT program has engaged me as a customer, making me more knowledgeable about the company.
Starbucks minted 2,000 Siren NFTs (“Stamps”) for $100 each, which sold out in under 18 minutes. Many holders of the NFT were eventually shipped a MiiR 360 Traveler hot/cold cup that was customized with the exact visage of the NFT they held.
Starbucks’ initial offering of the Siren collection (described in the blockchain world as a primary market sale) sold out in under 18 minutes and, at a price of $100 each, sales revenue reached over $200,000. At the time this article was published on Blockchain Journal, the Siren stamps were available for purchase from existing holders (known as secondary market sales) for a minimum of $290.
In April, “The First Store” collection dropped, honoring 50+ years of history at Starbucks' first store in Seattle's Pike Place Market. This time, Starbucks minted a collection consisting of 5,000 Stamps at a primary market sale price of $100. But, unlike the Siren collection, the First Store collection fell just short of selling out when it sold 4,579 Stamps, generating approximately $457,900 in revenue for Starbucks. At the time this article was published on Blockchain Journal, First Store Stamps were available on the secondary market for approximately $84 ($16 less than the primary offering price).
Following the sell-out success of the Siren collection which consisted of 2,000 NFTs at $100 each, Starbucks launched The First Store collection consisting of 5,000 NFTs (also at $100 each), which didn’t sell out as fast.
When it comes to buying and selling Stamps, my favorite part is the ability to buy Stamps with a cryptocurrency wallet (e.g., MetaMask) or with US dollars via credit card. In choosing this approach, Starbucks was clearly looking to make it easy for NFT newcomers to engage with the Odyssey program without the complexities or confusing language that the world of blockchain is known for.
One of the standout aspects of Starbucks Odyssey is the vibrant and highly engaged community.
Coffee has always been a social activity for me, and connecting with fellow enthusiasts in the Starbucks Odyssey Discord server has brought a new level of enjoyment to my coffee journey – shoutout to the Community Lead, Steve @NFTbark.
Discord has turned into the de facto platform for NFT programs looking to establish communities of customers that are deeply engaged with their brands. On the Starbucks Odyssey Discord server, it’s easy to connect with Starbucks representatives and other fans of the Starbucks brand.
The Coffee Bot that works within Starbucks’s Discord server has also been a game-changer, enabling community members to earn and gift "Beans" to one another. Eventually, these digital beans will serve as entries into monthly sweepstakes.
Every day, you can give one virtual Starbucks product to a member and receive one Bean in return. It's a fantastic way to spread good vibes and share the love for Starbucks with like-minded fans of the brand.
The First Airdrop
Similar to the NFT programs of other global brands (e.g., the adidas ALTs program), Starbucks collaborates with artists to keep the Odyssey community engaged. For a limited time, members were notified about Odyssey’s first airdrop of a free NFT to Odyssey participants who completed at least two Journeys and owned one limited-edition Stamp. The airdrop – which took place on June 7, 2023 – involved a beautiful NFT designed by the NY-based artist Jade Purple Brown.
Qualified participants in the Starbucks Odyssey program were airdropped an NFT that was minted in collaboration with visual artist Jade Purple Brown.
Jade also joined Starbucks’ Discord server for an exclusive “Conversation Over Coffee” with the Odyssey community. During our chat with Jade, we learned that she previously collaborated with Starbucks for a redesign of the iconic Siren at the Starbucks Reserve Empire State Building.
Less is more
The beauty of the Starbucks Odyssey program lies in its simplicity. Users do not need to download a new app, have any knowledge of blockchain technology, or even manage the self-custody of blockchain tokens (fungible or non-fungible) with a cryptocurrency wallet.
The concept of Web3 often intimidates outsiders with intricate onboarding steps and unfamiliar jargon. Then, add in the layers of traits, utilities, editions, rarities, burn mechanics, and much more – it’s easy to see why so many people are discouraged from seeing the potential of blockchain.
Starbucks masked the word, "NFT" with "Stamps," tapped Nifty Gateway to power safe and crypto-less purchases (Nifty Gateway guarantees that branded NFTs are not counterfeits and allows for transacting in fiat currencies), and saw users engaging and trading on an entire on-chain (Polygon) program -- without even knowing.
The Odyssey program stands out by prioritizing accessibility and personalization, enabling people to easily participate in fun experiences and receive rewards aligned with their passions and preferences. For newcomers, it's an enjoyable experience, and the satisfaction of earning those coveted Stamps, Beans, and prizes keeps you hooked and excited.
This Web3 experience has rekindled my passion for Starbucks and connected me with an incredible community of fellow coffee enthusiasts.
So, as I look to publish more about my ongoing encounters with the Starbucks Odyssey program, grab your favorite Starbucks brew and join me on this remarkable coffee odyssey!