Starbucks and Delta will let their customers link loyalty accounts

The coffee giant is partnering with the airline in the most prominent example yet of a major restaurant chain expanding the scope of its loyalty beyond its locations.
Starbucks Delta
Starbucks and Delta Airlines linked their loyalty programs in the first of many such partnerships for the coffee giant. / Photo courtesy of Starbucks.

Delta passengers who pop by Starbucks at the airport will now be able to compound their loyalty points by doing so.

The Atlanta-based airline and the Seattle-based coffee giant on Wednesday announced a partnership to link their respective loyalty programs, the most prominent example yet of a major restaurant chain seeking to leverage its loyalty base with a partner outside the industry.

U.S. customers who are members of both loyalty programs, Delta’s SkyMiles and Starbucks Rewards, can now link their accounts. Members can then earn one mile per $1 spent on eligible purchases at Starbucks, and they can earn double Starbucks Stars on eligible purchases at the chain on days they fly.

It’s the first in what the company promises to be a number of such loyalty program partnerships.

“We’ve selected a group of the world’s leading brands, and we’ve invited them to link their loyalty programs with Starbucks,” Starbucks CMO Brady Brewer told analysts and investors last month, according to a transcript on the financial services site Sentieo. “So, this will enable us to reward members of both brands, adding new benefits and new experiences that were not possible before, while increasing customer lifetime value.”

For Starbucks, the move could theoretically drive membership growth, giving the company a potentially larger base of loyalty members. The ability to earn more “Stars” outside of the company’s coffee shops could prove to be a powerful lure. It may also give the company more access to a group of customers already accustomed to using a loyalty program.

There are more than 100 million global members of Delta’s SkyMiles program, and airline loyalty members are famous for their use of those companies’ programs.

“This is going to be a very powerful driver for us to drive membership growth as well as engagement and help drive customer lifetime value,” Brewer said.

It may also increase spending inside Starbucks. For instance, by giving Delta SkyMiles members the ability to earn miles buying coffee, customers may be more inclined to get their beverage at Starbucks than a competitor.

“Imagine earning miles faster at Starbucks with your favorite airline through your everyday purchases at Starbucks,” Brewer said. “Imagine earning Stars when you shop at your favorite retailer. Imagine joining Starbucks Rewards so easily by just tapping one button in another brand’s loyalty program.”

In addition to the point crossovers, customers who link their accounts can earn 500 Delta miles, and once they’ve made a qualified purchase, can earn 150 Stars.

Higher-tiered Diamond and Platinum members of Delta’s SkyMiles will also be able to choose 4,000 Stars as a benefit starting in 2024.

For Starbucks, the move represents a further expansion of a loyalty program it created in 2009 and which has become something of an industry standard in the years since then. Starbucks Rewards has 27 million U.S. members, whose spending accounts for more than half of the revenue generated at company-owned locations.

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