So, what can your small business learn from Starbucks and how can you copy it to find your own success? The answer is gamification! Starbucks has found a way to make drinking coffee (something that many people do out of habit every day or necessity when they’re tired) into a fun game.
Starbucks coffee isn’t simply a cup of joe, it’s an experience that’s social and indulgent and exciting, and with gamification they’ve also found a way to make it an irresistible challenge. Here’s how Starbucks uses a gamification strategy successfully to drive profitability:
Encourage Regular Purchases
A lot of people already buy coffee on a regular basis (for instance every day on their way into work). However, Starbucks coffee is more expensive than many of their coffee counterparts, which means that Starbucks must work harder to get people coming in predictably instead of just as a treat. To solve this problem, they created the “Starbucks Dash,” which rewards members for coming in multiple times over a certain timeframe. A Dash incentivizes consumers to start a predictable visit routine, awarding them more Stars (loyalty program points) the more times they visit. Their app keeps track of how often a member has visited, encouraging them to move the video game-like progress bar towards earning their special reward.
Small businesses can mimic this strategy by using loyalty punch cards. Rewarding consumers every time they make a purchase is a great way to get people stopping in more often to buy from your business regularly. The more engrained your business becomes in a consumer’s day, week, month, or season, the better it is for your profitability!
Incentivize New Purchases
Starbucks is great at compiling data about what you’re bought before, which makes it easy for them to offer personalized recommendations and incentives. For instance, if you typically purchase an espresso beverage, they may create an offer for you that rewards you with more stars if you buy an espresso beverage, a tea beverage, and a breakfast sandwich over the course of a week. Their goal is to get you out of your ordering comfort zone so that you try new things and, just maybe, find some new favorites. If you’re typically a coffee drinker and they can hook you with their food menu items or teas, then you’re more likely to stop in at times even when you’re not in the mood for a cup of coffee. The “try them all” approach encourages members to cross items off their must-try list like a video game achievement list.
Small businesses can use email marketing to promote their other products – offering a discount on less popular items to help move inventory and appeal to different audiences. Compiling email engagement metrics to compare with sales data is important for gauging the success of these emails, and should be used to refine your efforts moving forward.
Fill in Slow Times
In general, Starbucks locations are busiest in the mornings on weekdays and in the late morning to afternoon timeframe on weekends. But a Starbucks location is paying to be open even when they’re not busy. They have expenses whether the location is packed or completely empty, so they offer incentives to bring more people in during the slow times. They reward afternoon purchases on week days and early morning purchases on weekends with more stars so that they’re bringing in revenue all day long. Rewarding people for what they want to do anyway but don’t usually find the time to do is like giving them a “+1 up” for the day! (Did you catch that Super Mario Bros reference?)
Small businesses should be doing this too (especially food/beverage businesses)! The easiest way to do this is to encourage people to come in at off peak times by giving discounts or doubling their loyalty credits, but that’s not the only way that you can use this strategy. You can also offer unique perks during slow times like free gifts. For example, a retailer could offer beverages and light snacks to encourage people to come shop or a café could offer a small gift card or coupon to use toward a future purchase or give to a friend.
Promote Brand Extensions
Starbucks sells coffee and other food/beverages, but they also offer coffee accessories like mugs, coffee brewing machines, bagged ground coffee, etc. These brand extensions are big money-makers because they have high margins, which means that Starbucks has a serious interest in promoting them. Starbucks will offer bonus stars to members who add these items onto their normal coffee purchases in-store. This feels very much like unlocking a secret level or a cheat in a game because by just grabbing one or two items from a beautiful Starbucks retail display members can score a free coffee.
If your small business has diverse product offerings, use the purchases of your most popular items to encourage cross-purchases of your highest margin items. You can suggest complimentary products at the checkout, group products together into gift bundles, or give samples of other products away with purchases. But no matter how you do it, promoting all the extensions of your brand is crucial to increasing revenue.
Kate Pierce is the owner of LionShark Digital Marketing LLC, a West Michigan internet marketing company. Her areas of expertise include Paid Search, Search Engine Optimization, Business Blogging and Web Copywriting. She lives in the Grand Rapids area with her husband and son and enjoys cooking, watching sports, and spending time together as a family. Like a true digital marketing expert (i.e. geek), she loves talking about current marketing trends… so don’t say you weren’t warned!