If you’re one of the many who just can’t do without their daily cup of Starbucks coffee, then you’d be surprised to know that America’s most popular coffee chain employs a range of tactics to make you part with your hard-earned bucks. Here are 10 sneaky ways Starbucks gets you to spend more money.
10. Rewards program and gift cards
Much like loyalty programs employed by several other retail brands, Starbucks also heavily encourages its customers to participate in its loyalty program. It’s loyalty program called ‘Starbucks Rewards’ lures you in with a range of attractive offerings beginning with easy and fast sign-up and moving onto other benefits like the option to order ahead from their app, free treats on your birthday, free food and drink offers, personalized offers, games to earn extra stars (rewards points in Starbucks lingo), etc. You can also load money onto your Starbucks card and use it to pay for orders at all Starbucks outlets. For each milestone, you are entitled to extra benefits like free menu items. There are Double Star Days (days where you’ll earn twice the number of stars on every order) too. This is how Starbucks reels you in; once you are a member of the program and have the app on your phone, you are sure to be bombarded with messages and offers that will tempt you to spend even more money. Their Gift Cards are another ingenious scheme where you can send a gift card of a certain denomination that entitles the receiver to redeem the amount in-store at any Starbucks outlet. If you receive a Starbucks gift card, you’ll surely use it to buy drinks and food. But once the gift amount is redeemed, you’ll be tempted with offers to reload the card with additional money that will encourage you to step inside a Starbucks even more often. Is it any wonder that millions of dollars are loaded onto Starbucks gift cards each year?
9. Enticing you to buy higher-priced cold brew
For those not in the know, cold brew is simply coffee that has been steeped in cold water and left in the refrigerator overnight. It is then strained and the resulting coffee is a strong and highly concentrated one. Cold brew coffee has become extremely popular in recent times, especially delightful creations from Starbucks like Irish Cream Cold Brew, Cold Brew with Salted Cream Cold Foam, Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew, etc. Unless you are a coffee connoisseur, a cold brew and iced coffee will not taste very different to you. But the prices for both are quite different. A cup of cold brew will cost you at least a dollar more than regular iced coffee. And when cold brew is so simple to make at home, there’s no reason why you should spend all that money and buy it at Starbucks. Granted that the cold brew process is a little slower, but the advantage is that once it’s brewed, it can be stored for quite a few days. Most people don’t know the simple technique and advantages of making their own cold brew coffee and Starbucks capitalizes on it by charging you way more than usual for it. And the bigger the coffee cup size, the higher the price. An iced beverage shouldn’t cost you much at any coffee shop, even if it is a Starbucks. So the next time you get a craving for a cold brew, do yourself and your wallet a favor by making some at home to enjoy on your own or share it with your co-workers.
8. Luring you in with premium iced coffees
Coffee is not just a simple cup of joe anymore. It’s hot coffee, cold coffee, cold brew, Nitro brew, blended coffee, flavored coffee drinks and so much more. After capturing the market with its hot coffees, Starbucks moved on to taking over the iced coffee market as well, especially with its amazing range of premium iced coffees. Gone are the days when there was just a simple iced coffee on coffee shop menus menu. Starbucks has a whole section dedicated to iced coffees. There are a variety of Iced Lattes, Iced Flat Whites, Iced Mochas, Iced Macchiatos, Iced Americanos, etc. Plus, there are always seasonal iced coffee flavors like Caramel Brûlée, Peppermint Mocha, Eggnog Latte, etc. You may step into a Starbucks for a spot of regular iced coffee, but the mind-boggling array of premium iced coffees will tempt you to spend more. And the cash register staff will entice you further by asking you to spring for a premium iced coffee instead of a regular one of the same size for a just a little more amount. After all, who can say no to a Peppermint Mocha over a regular iced coffee for just a dollar or two more? That is exactly how Starbucks gets you to spend more money! And they are constantly releasing new flavors and variations of premium iced coffees that continue to lure you into Starbucks outlets. Add to that the popularity of cold brew coffees and Nitro brew coffees, and you are looking at a price increase of at least 50%.
7. Closely priced larger size drinks
Tall, Grande and Venti are terms that are now synonymous with Starbucks coffee cup sizes and are priced quite close to each other. Depending on your location, a Grande Starbucks coffee may cost you just half a dollar more than a Tall coffee. Naturally, you’ll spring for the Grande option without even considering if you need that much coffee. While half a dollar may not put a dent on your bank balance, a few million more customers thinking the same way add millions of dollars to Starbucks coffers. And yes, the prices differ according to the city that you are located in. Another great way for Starbucks to make more money off you. If you think that you’re the only one finding it difficult to make a choice between Tall, Grande and Venti coffee at Starbucks, you’re not alone, there are many more like you. Studies suggest that given an option of three choices, people tend to always pick the middle option. And in the light of this knowledge, it is safe to conclude that most Starbucks customers will go for the Grande option given the minuscule price difference. There are also rumors on the Internet that there is a fourth coffee cup size at Starbucks – Short, which is just eight ounces. A Tall is 12 fl. oz., Grande is 14 and Venti is a whopping 24 fl. oz. A Short size apparently costs just a few cents less than Tall but isn’t listed on the menu, making it a very sneaky way to get customers to buy a closely priced larger size drink.
6. Strategically positioning attractive items at the cash register
Just like supermarkets and gas station convenience stores, Starbucks also places certain items at the cash register to get you to impulsively buy those things. There are mints, chips packets, chocolate bars, nuts, sandwiches, beverages, water, coffee mugs, and such other items attractively arranged and displayed at the register. And these are usually not very high-priced items, making the impulse buy decision even easier for you. Employing these clever tactics gives Starbucks a neat additional revenue stream besides its core coffee income. Most Starbucks stores are designed to be very attractive yet familiar and homely. The various sections in the store are designed in such a way that they immediately catch the attention of customers. And if you’ve closely noticed, the food section is often placed right next to the cash register. Not only that, it is extremely well-lit and the food is attractively displayed. Naturally, your attention is immediately drawn towards it and you are tempted to order a sandwich, cake or cookie to go with your coffee. Plus, the staff at the cash register will also often offer you an add-on like a packet of nuts or a grab-n-go item like a salad, which will tempt you even further. Thus, strategically positioning attractive items at the cash register is another sneaky way that Starbucks gets you to spend more money.
5. Absence of $ signs next to prices
One of the most clever tricks in Starbucks’ kitty is the absence of $ signs next to the prices of items listed on the menu. This is yet another ingenious psychological trick employed by the famous coffee chain that will make you spend more money than you intend to. By omitting the $ signs from the menus in its outlets, Starbucks is looking to make you forget how pricey their drinks actually are. For the smart people at Starbucks know that there is nothing like the good old $ sign that will stop you in your tracks from upsizing your drink to a Venti or grabbing an extra muffin to go with your coffee. Eliminating the sign completely seems to have worked in its favor for the orders just keep on coming in. Even on its big display boards behind the cash register, there are no $ signs, just the prices. This might confuse you if you’ve never stepped into a Starbucks before, but seasoned customers have become used to this dollar trickery. Another thing to notice is that their prices always seem to end in the numerals 9 or 5, which means that your mind is not immediately able to register if Starbucks increases its prices. This and many other price-related tactics are used by Starbucks to make sure that you are enticed to spend as much money as you can at their coffee shops.
4. Creating hype around limited-time-only or seasonal drinks
Come fall and we’re looking forward to drinking Starbucks’ famous Pumpkin Spice Latte or the Peppermint Mocha around Christmas. For some people, the release of these seasonal drinks signals the start of the holiday season. And it’s not just the year-end holidays that have special drinks, Starbucks regularly releases seasonal or limited-time-only specialty drinks that keep us coming in for more. But if you think about it, there’s no reason why Starbucks can’t offer a Pumpkin Spice Latte throughout the year. After all, it consists of coffee and spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and clove (there’s reportedly no pumpkin in it) that are available all year long. By offering this specialty drink for a limited-time-only or as a seasonal drink, Starbucks is playing on your FOMO by creating hype around it and getting you in the door. Their limited-time-only or limited edition drinks work much the same way. Starbucks constantly releases new drinks and flavors and widely advertises them to catch your attention. And once you start seeing these limited edition drinks (think Unicorn Frappuccino, Mermaid Frappuccino and the likes) on your Instagram feed, they know that you’re hooked and will surely step into an outlet to try it out at least once. Plus, limited-time-only would make you think that there is only a small time frame within which you can try it, thus, adding to their appeal and hype.
3. Novel illustrations and pictures
Most restaurants and coffee shops place a lot of emphasis on decor, design and ambience. For if the interior is not inviting, chances of repeat customers are highly unlikely. Starbucks coffee shop interiors are very clean, inviting and attractive. In fact, some outlets even feel very homely and cozy. Every time you step inside, you are hit with the familiar aroma of freshly brewed coffee, a hint of vanilla and very familiar interior decoration. So, even if you are in another city, you can get a feel of home when you enter a Starbucks. Besides this, they also make it a point to have a lot of novel illustrations and pictures put up on the display boards behind the cash register and at many other strategic spots in the outlets. However, it is their chalk drawings of new drinks that are very innovative and eye-catchy. Remember the colorful chalk drawings of the Dragon Frappuccino or the Toasted Coconut Cold Brew illustrations? These are meant to draw your attention and lure you to step inside and order a drink ASAP. And most often, these illustrations are of higher-priced items that translate to increased profits for Starbucks. Plus, you are more likely to share pictures of your over-priced specialty Starbucks drink on your social media, meaning more eyeballs and more sales for the company.
2. Well-lit and prominently displayed food items
In conjunction with point number 6, Starbucks also makes sure that all its food items are displayed in a well-lit display case that is positioned in a prominent location, such as, right next to the cash register. This is done to entice you to buy a food item on an impulse. Moreover, the staff is trained to offer you add-on items from the food display area to complement your drink purchase. Delectable croissants and muffins for breakfast, yummy salads and sandwiches to go for lunch and scrumptious cookies and cakes for tea time are all on display in the food area. And if you notice closely, the food display area is the most brightly lit areas in the entire outlet. This is intentionally done so that your eyes immediately gravitate towards the prepared food area and you are tempted to pick up at least one or two items.
1. Novelty drinks like the Unicorn Frappuccino
And last but definitely not the least, Starbucks comes up with unique drink creations that become outrageously popular. Drinks like the Dragon drink, Pink Pegasus, Unicorn and Mermaid Frappuccinos, etc. fall into this category. These colorful creations are very pretty to look at and make for Insta-worthy photos that will surely induce viewers’ envy. And these novelty drinks serve a few other purposes too, like bringing in new customers, creating media buzz and attracting a younger clientele. Starbucks uses social media as a powerful tool to reach across new customers and with the help of novelty drinks, this task is even easier. If you are wondering about the prices of these novelty drinks, you can bet that they are definitely higher priced than regular drinks of the same category. But new customers not wanting to miss out on a trend will be willing to pay extra for the novelty drinks. And old customers have no idea about what a novelty drink should cost them, so Starbucks can charge them whatever they wish to in the name of premium drinks. Thus, Starbucks again manages to employ a sneaky way to get you to spend more money.