Starbucks launches nationwide mobile payment network

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Coffeehouse colossus Starbucks launched mobile payment services across its 6,800 company-operated U.S. stores and over 1,000 Target locations, enabling iPhone and BlackBerry users to fund in-store purchases via smartphone. Customers who've downloaded the free Starbucks Card Mobile App can now pay for their order by holding their handset in front of a countertop scanner and processing the app's on-screen barcode; consumers loaded more than $1.5 billion on their Starbucks cards in 2010, up 21 percent year-over-year, with the company adding that the prepaid cards now account for one in every five Starbucks transactions.

Touted by Starbucks as the largest mobile payment program in the U.S., the effort follows on the heels of trials first launched in select West Coast locations in fall 2009--the following March, the franchise extended the trial to Target stores. According to Starbucks, more than a third of its U.S. customers own smartphones--within that segment, close to three quarters wield either iPhone or BlackBerry devices. In addition to mobile payment capabilities, the Starbucks Card Mobile App enables customers to manage their Starbucks Card account, check their current balance, reload their account with any major credit card, view their My Starbucks Rewards status and locate nearby Starbucks locations.

In October, Starbucks introduced the Starbucks Digital Network, an in-store multimedia platform optimized for all WiFi-enabled smartphones, tablets and laptop devices including Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone and iPad. The Starbucks Digital Network offers free, handpicked content available exclusively within the confines of Starbucks stores, promising snackable entertainment and news experiences tailored for consumer visits spanning anywhere from a few minutes to an hour. Powered by Starbucks' WiFi infrastructure, the network is managed and hosted by Yahoo--the HTML5-based platform promises touch- and swipe-friendly visual design elements as well as adjustable navigation tools that span across multiple mobile operating systems and device form factors. In addition, iPhones with the myStarbucks App will recognize customers upon their entrance into the store and offer an automatic connection to the network.

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