Airlines and hotels, pay attention: Starbucks’ loyalty strategy during the coronavirus outbreak

Mar 19, 2020

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It’s no secret we’re all adjusting to our new normal as the coronavirus outbreak spreads around the world.

The novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, has affected nearly 200,000 people around the world in 165 countries and territories and all 50 U.S. states. Life as we know it is temporarily on pause.

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To cope with this current reality, airlines are slashing capacity and offering unprecedented change and cancellation fee waivers, as people are only traveling right now for urgent and essential reasons. While there are obviously bigger issues at stake, many frequent flyers and road warriors are wondering what’s going to happen to their elite status, miles and more. One thing’s for sure: Airlines and hotels can probably take a page (or two) from Starbucks‘ loyalty strategy.

Even if you wanted to enjoy your cup of coffee from a Starbucks cafe right now, you can’t. The company announced all of their locations will be “to go” until further notice and closed seating as of March 15. Still, they’re helping Starbucks loyalists earn points and keep their rewards active.

Earning rewards from home

The popular coffee chain is coping with quarantine by launching a new promotion, in which customers take part in an augmented reality game to win their Stars. The best part? You can do it all from the comfort of your home office (or couch — no judgement).

Here’s how it works: Every star you catch in the Starland promotion will earn you a raffle ticket or instant prize, although you’re limited to two plays per day. There’s no fee or requirements to play. You can, though, earn additional plays by making a purchase on your Starbucks Card or your Starbucks Card in the store’s app. Some of the prizes you can win include 15,000 stars, free drinks for a year and more.

To play, just fire up your Starbucks app or head to the Starland website and from there, you can play at your leisure.

Extended reward expiration dates

The coffee chain is also proactively thinking ahead, delaying the expiration of all stars scheduled to expire between now and June 1, 2020.

While we don’t know how much longer this pandemic is going to last, it’s little things like this that give consumers a valuable way to continue to rack up stars even when they’re not dining or picking up coffee in person. We have no doubt we’ll be putting our star stockpiles to good use when we eventually come out on the other side of this. And while we wait to return to our leisurely cup of mocha-steamed-chai-latte-whatever, here’s some reading material on the best credit cards to use at Starbucks.

Airlines and hotels should take note and follow suit with clear and straight-forward extensions, because giving consumers additional flexibility in these trying times goes a long way toward building confidence and (you guessed it) loyalty.

For more on the coronavirus outbreak, see:

Featured image by Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg/Getty Images.

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