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Coffee talks – Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts on mobile

I’ll openly admit I’m a coffee addict. While I’ve taken to mainly making my own at home with Chock Full O’Nuts’ delightful “New York Roast”, I’m out and about enough to where I’ll occasionally stop in to a Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, or one of the many outstanding independent Manhattan coffee shops when in need of a caffeine hit. I much prefer to spend money with a local place (such as my personal favorite, Terremoto on 15th St), but there are times when Starbucks or Dunkin’ are most convenient. The latter, in particular, has two gas station locations near my apartment in the Bronx, but as of 2014 there were slightly more than six Starbucks per square mile in Manhattan – so it’s usually rare when my options are lacking.

Starbucks’ mobile app combines ease and utility (courtesy –

I’ve been using the Starbucks reward system for at least the last five years, gladly wielding my fancy “gold” card each time to pay at the counter. Over the last year and a half though, I began using their mobile app to order on the go, and it’s a game-changer. It saves a ton of time, especially when ordering anything beyond hot drip coffee.

My Starbucks app – yeah, yeah, I have a bunch of rewards to use…

The design is sleek and simple, giving you primary choices on the first page – pay, stores, gift, order, or music (which allows one to stream a special Starbucks Spotify playlist). There is a “feed” of promotions plus tabs for one’s “inbox” of promotions, order history, and app settings. It’s all visible without scrolling or tapping – a major plus compared to Dunkin’ Donuts’ app. Reloading an account on the Starbucks app is fairly straightforward and quick, and mobile is seamlessly integrated with the physical Gold Card. Ordering on the go is relatively easy by allowing you to¬† choose between a favorite store if you’re nearby, or from a list of Starbucks within range while also seeing the store menu at the same time. Once you have your items picked out, and you hit “order”, that’s it. This is an important distinction from the Dunkin’ Donuts app, and a simple step which elevates Starbucks ahead of its New England-based competitor in my mind.

From a functionality standpoint, the Dunkin Donuts app menu offers a lot of choices, but without much thought to placement or preference. As you can see from the screenshot below, “My Caffeine IV”, or otherwise one’s favorite order is the first prompt shown when opening the app along with the “perks” and “my card” tabs. Fairly straightforward, right? Well, not quite. If you’d like to order something, you first go through the process of picking the drink and specifying customizations, finalizing the order, then picking the store you’d like to get it from. Once you pick the store, it still makes you confirm when you want to pick it up. I would assume most people ordering from a mobile app are utilizing it for immediate purposes, and simply want a painless, fast ordering process for right now. The extra “confirming” step feels like a bit of an annoyance especially when on the go. Same for the account replenishment – each time one must enter the security code on the back of a credit card. Sure, this is a nice way to keep one’s card info secure, but it slows down the order process compared to Starbucks’.

Compare the appearance of the two apps, as well. Starbucks’ is simple thanks to the text being easy to read, with buttons in prime placement areas optimized for quickness. The Dunkin app, especially on the ordering page, is a mash of colors and text and takes a few seconds to get used to. The main advantage offered by Dunkin’s app is the “favorite order” aspect being front and center, which is perfect for the loyal customer/brand advocate with a daily routine. While Starbucks does offer a favorite/repeat order option, it takes one or two steps to navigate to that area.

UPDATE – 12/14 – The Starbucks app went and updated itself less than 24 hours after I published this. The new look maintains a simple, easy to read layout. But, the reward tab stands out more, as well as adding a progress bar that indicates how many stars one must accumulate until getting another reward. This reminds me of what some airlines add to their loyalty pages that visually represent how much one has left before getting to a certain prestige level. Otherwise, the app maintains its feed-like scroll below the reward tab and seems to have kept its solid functionality.

Among the topics I’ll touch on in future posts is comparing Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts’ media strategies – while one company claims America Runs on Dunkin in tons of placement on many platforms, the other falls into cheery seasonal routines based around social media and activations within stores. I’m off to have another cup of Joe – and work on another post on that soon.

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