How Starbucks Is Entering The NFT Space With Its Rewards Program

The future of the internet is coming, and its name is Web3. As Seeking Alpha explains, Web1 was the first internet version created in the 1990s. Web2, meanwhile, was what the internet evolved into beginning in the early 2000s, when a few powerful companies — notably, Google, Facebook, and Amazon — essentially centralized the online experience and streamlined it from a commercial perspective. This is the internet we're still experiencing.

The main goal of Web3, TechTarget notes, is to decentralize the internet to benefit users and creators directly. Several key components will enable this shift. Blockchain technology and NFTs (non-fungible tokens) are core elements, according to Seeking Alpha. So, too, are artificial intelligence and virtual reality, confirms TechTarget. The virtual reality aspect may bring to mind the metaverse — a futuristic modality that's likewise much discussed — but the metaverse will exist within the world of Web3.

Web3 may be as ubiquitous a talking point now as the metaverse. In a single month earlier this year, Entrepreneur observes, some 41,000 articles were written which mentioned Web3. This seems a clear indicator that Web3 is coming soon. Another sign of its imminent arrival is the investment in the technology by major brands, which are buying into the concept that their customers should have more ownership regarding the nature of their experiences and interactions. Sound complicated? It's not. Starbucks' new Odyssey rewards program is a perfect example.

Starbucks new Odyssey program starts this year

Starbucks' new Odyssey program will be online by the end of this year, the coffee brand recently announced via Starbucks Stories. Odyssey is basically an enhanced version of Starbucks' traditional rewards program, but one which exists mainly within a digital space made possible by Web3 technology. Yes, NFTs are at the heart of Odyssey. Members in the program can earn them, buy and sell them within an online marketplace, or redeem them for immersive experiences like games, activities, and "journeys." These experiences may be rare or one-of-a-kind and are not exclusive to the digital space. Some may take place at actual Starbucks locations or destinations worldwide.

"Starbucks has always served as the Third Place, a place between home and work where you feel the warmth of connection over coffee, community and belonging. The Starbucks Odyssey experience will extend the Third Place connection to the digital world," explains Brady Brewer, Starbucks executive vice president and chief marketing officer, on the company's website. "For the first time we are connecting our Starbucks Rewards loyalty program members not just to Starbucks, but to each other."

Environmental sustainability is a core principle for Odyssey, TechCrunch reports. The program has pledged to decrease energy usage, carbon footprint, and overall waste. No cryptocurrency is needed to participate, per Starbucks. Members can buy NFTs — point-rated according to their rarity value — using old-fashioned credit cards. The waiting list for the program is already open.