Starbucks Odyssey Launches Today: Will It Shape the Future of Branding in the Metaverse?

Starbucks Odyssey Launches Today: Will It Shape the Future of Branding in the Metaverse?

Starbucks Odyssey launches December 8th for a small group of beta testers who can earn NFTs to earn points towards the Starbucks experience

Starbucks finally released the beta version of the Metaverse – Starbucks Odyssey – on December 8, after initially announcing the Web3 experience back in September. While restaurants have been putting their feet and marketing budgets into the Metaverse all year round, it seems like the party is just getting started after one of the world’s largest foodservice companies is on board.

But make no mistake: The Metaverse is still the Wild West of Internet 3.0 and likely will be for a long time to come. At this stage, we are still defining and refining what the metaverse is. The first retail and food service brands to embrace this trend require a compatible virtual reality headset and knowledge and ownership of cryptocurrencies. For example, to play basketball with Wendy’s Baconator in Wendyverse, you must have a Meta Quest 2 headset.

That said, we think Starbucks was wise to wait more than half a year after some of their industry peers joined the fight. Instead of limiting the size of its potential audience with additional tools or understanding of Bitcoin and NFTs, Starbucks is expanding its potential user base. The NFT has been renamed “Travel Token” and no cryptocurrency is required to buy and trade it. The coffeehouse chain also takes advantage of the well-known rewards program structure, which allows customers to earn points when purchasing and trading NFTs. Points can then be redeemed for in-store experiences.

While Starbucks has remained tight-lipped about some details of how the Odyssey experience and giveaways will work, the example they provided has little to do with the traditional rewards of discounts and free drinks. Instead, Starbucks offers more experiential rewards through participation in Metaverse, such as B.Espresso martini making classes and access to exclusive merchandise and in-store events. As we previously reported, loyalty programs are moving towards exclusive experiences rather than discounts, and Metaverse has become the new virtual playground for experimenting with this digital loyalty shift.

But the Metaverse is still a risky investment, and many restaurateurs see it as a fad that won’t last long. While we agree that the future of the metaverse is uncertain, companies like Starbucks need to find ways to create long-term engagement via blockchain. That means figuring out how to mix virtual worlds with real-world rewards, rather than relying solely on Flash-like games, which can be fun one-off marketing tools but are unlikely to entice consumers for more than a few minutes. (sorry Chipotle et al Wendy’s).

So what can Starbucks customers expect from a metauniverse experience? In a recent press release, Starbucks said there would be three tiers of benefits (recalling their legacy, a different rewards program structure), with the highest prize including a potential trip to Starbucks’ Hacienda Alsacia coffee estate in Costa Rica. Obviously, a coffee-themed trip to Costa Rica will only appeal to a small minority of die-hard Starbucks fans, and the majority of customers will be playing on the early prize tiers.

Ideally, participation in a Starbucks Odyssey experience would be as natural as a strong rewards program, and we believe it could one day even replace Starbucks Rewards. But Starbucks just needs to remember that the average everyday customer doesn’t want an exclusive course or a luxury coffee farm vacation: they want daily coffee and seasonal treats prepared and ordered quickly and efficiently. It might be wiser to supplement the Starbucks Odyssey experience with a “skip the line” or “try the new Frappuccino a week before everyone else” NFT.

One thing is certain: all operators’ eyes are on Starbucks as they discover how the metaverse works for this new era of digital customer engagement. Starbucks Odyssey will officially launch in early 2023.

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