Starbucks Coffee Company (NASDAQ: SBUX) and Tencent Holdings Limited (SEHK: 00700), a leading provider of internet value-added services in China, today pioneered a strategic partnership to co-create a new social gifting feature on WeChat, China’s leading mobile social communications service, in early 2017.
This partnership positions Starbucks as the first retail brand to combine and bring a locally relevant social gifting and digital payment experience to life on WeChat in China. Tapping into the 846 million global monthly active user accounts (as of the third quarter of 2016), the new integrated feature will seamlessly allow customers in China to instantly and conveniently gift Starbucks to a friend or loved one. Beginning today, Starbucks customers will also be able to use WeChat Pay to make purchases at close to 2,500 Starbucks stores across Mainland China.
“Starbucks and Tencent share similar values to enable greater human connections through our respective products and services, and I am pleased to partner with an established and respected social and mobile industry leader in China,” said Belinda Wong, ceo, Starbucks China. “This new strategic partnership will leverage the strengths of both Starbucks and WeChat to create a true online-to-offline social gifting platform that will deepen our engagement with our customers in a unique and powerful way. Just as Starbucks cards are among the most gifted around the globe, we aspire to also become the most gifted brand digitally in China.”
“The strategic cooperation between WeChat and Starbucks enables us to bring the unique Starbucks retail experience seamlessly to hundreds of millions of WeChat users in China,” said Allen Zhang, Senior Executive Vice President of Tencent. “We are happy to be the partner of choice of Starbucks and look forward to deepening our connection to our users through the highest-quality services.”
Starbucks is committed to innovative digital experiences that surprise, delight and deliver an elevated Starbucks Experience for its customers across China. The online social gifting platform is part of the company’s growing digital presence focused on connecting with customers through digital channels, including the Starbucks® Mobile App, the My Starbucks Rewards® program and social media.
Jointly created by Starbucks and WeChat, the social gifting feature encourages everyday acts of kindness and appreciation among family and friends. Customers will be able to select from Starbucks-branded gifts and products and add a personalized message of love, of gratitude or to simply uplift someone’s day. Recipients of these personal and simple acts of kindness can save their gifts and memories on their WeChat accounts and redeem their gift at Starbucks stores across China to enjoy the unparalleled Starbucks Experience.
As part of this partnership, Starbucks will introduce the use of WeChat Pay for purchases in its retail stores in a continued effort to elevate the in-store experience for customers. This cash-free digital payment experience, which allows users to pay for their goods and services from their mobile devices, is one of the most popular payment methods in China, with more than 300 million users linking their bank cards with WeChat or QQ, another flagship service of Tencent, as of March 2016.
Today’s announcement builds on Starbucks rapidly expanding portfolio of digital innovations in China, which integrates the exceptional in-store experience with the digital Fourth Place experience. Earlier this year, Starbucks launched a mobile payment system in China aimed at providing My Starbucks Rewards® (MSR) members access to a fast, seamless and convenient way to pay for purchases, using their pre-loaded Starbucks Gift Card on their mobile devices.