Starbucks – a trust legitimiser for blockchain?

By Cameron Abbott and Samantha Tyrrell

In a recent quarterly investor call, Starbucks’ Chairman Howard Schultz discussed the possibility of incorporating blockchain technology into Starbucks’ impressive digital repertoire.

Starbucks’ commitment to being a first mover when it comes to disruptive technology has already resulted in the hugely successful implementation of its mobile payment app, launched in 2015. The app allows users to order, pay and accrue rewards remotely and now accounts for nearly one third of Starbucks’ US transactions. According to Schultz, these figures may warrant a move towards integrating some entirely cashless stores throughout the US.

In line with this digital vision, Schultz spoke about what will be possible in the near future when legitimate digital currencies arising out of blockchain technology eventually gain the trust of consumers. He believes that Starbucks, being a global brand, could provide blockchain with the legitimacy it needs in order to engender consumer confidence. Incorporating a cryptocurrency into its capabilities, Schultz says, would also allow the coffee-giant to take advantage of its existing mobile payment platform.

Starbucks is not considering Bitcoin, the original cryptocurrency, as a potential method of payment in its stores. Schultz does not believe that Bitcoin will be a legitimate currency “today or in the future” and so will not use the company’s stature to lend credibility to the currency.

Despite its show of support for blockchain, Schultz reiterated that Starbucks is not announcing that it is developing a digital currency nor investing in one.  It remains to be seen whether this notorious early adopter will actually use blockchain technology as part of its payment system. Like all companies looking to use such new technology, Starbucks will first need to address legal and compliance considerations.

Starbucks’ announcement goes to show how quickly blockchain is becoming a mainstream technology and demonstrates the plethora of opportunities open to innovative companies attempting to pioneer FinTech products.

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