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Starbucks’ NFT program may drive more digital collectible integrations with big brands

As the world continues to become more digital, the demands and needs of consumers are changing — and NFTs might be a big part of the future for brands looking to shake up their rewards programs, Adam Brotman, co-CEO and co-founder of Forum3, said to TechCrunch.

“We’re hearing from a lot of other brands, whether they have a loyalty program or not, that what all big brands are contending with right now is that the consumer is changing,” Brotman, who is also the former chief digital officer of Starbucks, said. “It’s not just Gen Z or millennials, but the consumer in general has become more hyperdigitalized and more appreciative of digital goods.”

At the beginning of this month, Starbucks launched a blockchain-based loyalty program and NFT community dubbed Starbucks Odyssey. The initiative was launched through a partnership with Forum3, which helped build out the coffee giant’s NFT project, Brotman said.

In September, Starbucks said it envisioned the program as a way for its most loyal customers to earn a broader, more diverse set of rewards beyond the perks they can get today, like free drinks. Instead, Odyssey introduces a new platform where customers can engage with interactive activities called “Journeys” that, when complete, allow members to earn collectible Journey Stamps — which is Starbucks’ less technical terminology for NFTs.

Aside from Starbucks, web3 customer loyalty-focused Forum3 has been working mainly with consumer brands, retailers (including restaurants), sports leagues and direct-to-consumer subscription companies, Brotman said.

“Odyssey is an extension of the Starbucks loyalty program,” Brotman noted. “It’s an opportunity to innovate and extend loyalty.”

Separately, earlier this year, Nike launched an NFT and metaverse platform, .Swoosh, which will allow shoe fanatics to trade and create digital “wearables and virtual sneakers.”

A loyalty program is often centered around giving something to customers in return for their loyalty to a brand, Brotman said in a blog post. “What does the brand give in return? Discounts and digital convenience, such as remembering your favorite items, address, and payment methods, suggesting items, and letting you order ahead.”

But what if these digital points, or royalty rewards, could actually be owned by customers? That’s where NFTs, or true digital ownership, comes into play — and provides a “much more immersive loyalty layer,” Brotman said. It allows customers to receive points and digital collectibles that they own and could use in ways beyond what a typical rewards program allows today.

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