Brewing Success: A Sip of the Starbucks Loyalty Program Evolution


Starbucks, the iconic coffeehouse chain, is renowned not only for its delicious coffee but also for its innovative approach to customer loyalty programs. Over the years, the company has developed a cutting-edge mobile app and accompanying loyalty program that has revolutionized the way we order and enjoy coffee. In this article, we’ll take a journey through the history of the Starbucks Loyalty Program offered in their mobile app, tracing its evolution from its inception to its current state.

Birth of Starbucks Rewards

The Starbucks Loyalty Program, originally called Starbucks Rewards, was officially launched in 2009. At the time, it was a simple, point-based system. Customers could earn stars with each purchase and redeem them for free drinks and food items. However, this initial version had some limitations, such as requiring customers to register physical Starbucks cards and check their rewards status online.

Mobile App Integration

In 2011, Starbucks took a significant step forward by integrating the loyalty program with its mobile app. This move allowed customers to easily manage their rewards, check their balance, and make payments using the app. It also introduced the concept of mobile ordering, which was a game-changer in the coffee industry.

Digital Wallet and Payment Integration

One of the defining features of the Starbucks mobile app is its integration with digital wallets. In 2012, Starbucks partnered with Square to enable customers to make mobile payments through the app, which made transactions more convenient and faster. This also marked an early foray into mobile payment technology, setting the stage for the digital payment revolution that was to come.

Personalized Offers and Promotions

Starbucks didn’t stop at mobile payments; they aimed to create a more personalized experience for their customers. In 2013, they began offering personalized recommendations and promotions based on customers’ previous orders and preferences. This not only enhanced the customer experience but also encouraged more frequent visits and purchases.

My Starbucks Rewards: A Tiered Approach

As the program continued to evolve, Starbucks introduced a tiered system in 2016, renaming it “My Starbucks Rewards.” Customers could now achieve different levels of membership (Green, Gold, and Starbucks Reserve) by earning stars. Each tier came with its own set of benefits, including free refills, birthday rewards, and access to exclusive events. This tiered approach increased customer engagement and loyalty.

Mobile Order and Pay

In 2015, Starbucks unveiled the “Mobile Order and Pay” feature, allowing customers to place orders through the app and pick them up at their chosen store without waiting in line. This innovative feature addressed a common pain point for customers and significantly improved the in-store experience.

Partnerships and Expanding Rewards

Starbucks didn’t limit its loyalty program to its own stores. In 2018, the company formed partnerships with other brands, allowing customers to earn stars at these partner locations and redeem rewards at Starbucks. This expanded the reach and appeal of the loyalty program, making it even more attractive to customers.

The Sustainability Angle

As consumers became more environmentally conscious, Starbucks incorporated sustainability initiatives into its loyalty program. In 2020, the company introduced the “Greener Apron” program, which allowed customers to earn extra stars for making sustainable choices like using a reusable cup.

The Present and Future of Starbucks Rewards

Today, the Starbucks Rewards program stands as a shining example of customer-centric innovation. The mobile app provides a seamless and highly personalized experience for customers, from ordering and payment to loyalty rewards and promotions. Starbucks continues to evolve the program, integrating emerging technologies and catering to changing consumer preferences.


The history of the Starbucks Loyalty Program offered in their mobile app is a story of continuous innovation and customer-centricity. What began as a simple rewards system has transformed into a comprehensive digital ecosystem that not only enhances the coffee-buying experience but also fosters customer loyalty. With Starbucks’ commitment to staying at the forefront of technology and customer engagement, it’s safe to say that the future of their loyalty program will be just as exciting as its past.