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TECHNOLOGY | Staff Reporter, Singapore
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Starbucks joins forces with Tencent to launch a social gifting feature on China's WeChat

Starbucks teamed up with the provider of internet value-added services in China.

The partnership aims to co-create a new social gifting feature on WeChat, China’s leading mobile social communications service, in early 2017. The effort positions Starbucks as the first retail brand to combine and bring a locally relevant social gifting and digital payment experience 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. 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.”

The online social gifting platform is part of the company’s efforts towards a growing digital presence focused on connecting with customers through digital channels, including the Starbucks Mobile App, the My Starbucks Rewards program and social media.

Through the social gifting feature, 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 can save their gifts and memories on their WeChat accounts and redeem their gift at Starbucks stores across China.

As part of this partnership, Starbucks will introduce the use of WeChat Pay for purchases in its retail stores. 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.

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