Why Starbucks Doesn’t Care Much About Apple Pay

Starbucks now supports Apple Pay in their mobile app.

A few people have wondered if this means Starbucks is going to start supporting Apple Pay in stores at the point-of-sale. I feel like it’ll be a while before they do this any time soon.

Right now, if you use Apple Pay how it is today, Starbucks can’t track you or what you’re buying; the merchant doesn’t get information about you through Apple Pay. Starbucks, along with pretty much every other merchant, loves data on their customers. It tells them what they’re buying, how often they buy, where they buy, and all kinds of other relevant information that they can analyze. This data, in turn, can be used to drive their business and push advertising tailored specifically to your buying habits.

It’s a gold mine.

Today, Starbucks has an effective and efficient system for ordering in-store. You get the convenience of the app plus free items for coming in and using it. On the flip side, Starbucks is able to track your purchases and collect data on you—and they get a beachhead to push marketing to you on your phone because their app has to be installed! Using Apple Pay inside the app to load up your gift card doesn’t hinder this system in any way—it makes it even easier for you to give Starbucks money, in fact.

Would Starbucks throw all this away for in-store Apple Pay? Not to mention all the purchased scanning equipment at their eleven thousand (!) locations? I doubt it.

Now, what if you could use Apple Pay with gift cards, in addition to credit cards, at the point-of-sale? That, to me, seems like the quickest way to get broader support with merchants and would put the final nail in the coffin of groups like MCX.

I’m not sure if Apple would mind losing some of the anonymity of Apple Pay. I also don’t know how much Apple is relying on merchant-based initiative to roll out Apple Pay. But, I’d be surprised if functionality for this isn’t already in the works (at least in some form) somewhere in Cuptertino.