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An Eye and Sky Opener: Starbucks and Delta Let Loyalty Soar

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on December 27, 2022

By: Lanndon Lindsay

Headphones? Check. Toothbrush? Check. Toss water bottles before reaching TSA? Check. A double espresso first thing after arriving at the terminal? You better believe that’s a check.

Few things go better together than coffee and air travel. Just meander through queues of bleary-eyed passengers and count for yourself how many coffee cups are juggled amongst passports, boarding passes and luggage handles. It’s a practice that goes beyond mere ritual; it’s a survival mechanism.

So when two of the biggest players in their respective industries - Delta Airlines and Starbucks - announced that they were linking their loyalty platforms, yawns turned to “yays” as travellers perked up at the news of upgraded perks. 

Beginning October 12, members of Delta’s SkyMiles program can earn 1 mile for every $1 spent on Starbucks, while also scoring double stars on days with a scheduled Delta flight. And as a special promotional incentive to help get the wheels off the ground, members can also snag 500 miles and, after making a purchase at Starbucks, an additional 150 stars for connecting accounts before December 31, 2022.

The strategy behind the move plays deeply into the behavioral patterns of air travel and leverages longstanding customer attitudes to entrench mutually-derived value:

"Starbucks Rewards and Delta SkyMiles are centered on creating moments of meaningful connection, and by bringing together two of the country's most celebrated loyalty programs we are able to reward our members with more of what they love," Starbucks Vice President of Loyalty Strategy and Marketing Ryan Butz elaborates through a press release. "We are excited to partner with Delta to offer our members even more valuable benefits, as well as invite more customers to join Starbucks Rewards."

Coast-to-Coast Customer Experiences

One of the biggest side-effects of this new coalition will be an improved customer experience. As loyalty members reduce friction by interacting with integrated touchpoints, these platforms become more engaging to use, and positive experiences at airports will become intimately entwined with their parent brands. Naturally, these experiences will shine like jewels amidst the tawdry tedium of their surroundings. Let’s face it; airports aren’t renowned for their comfort or convenience. But with an active focus on elevated offerings, many of the obstacles preventing fluid customer experiences can be toppled.

This isn’t the first time that enhanced Starbucks services have taken off at airports. It seems that the company is consistently looking to improve their customer interactions within these hallowed halls. Earlier this year, the brand prompted a push towards mobile orders at airports, an endeavour historically challenged by licensing regulations and operational formats. Sound strategic sentiment prevailed, however, and by March of this year, mobile order-ahead options were made available at more than 230 licensed stores at 70 U.S. airports in cities including Atlanta, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, Orlando and Seattle. "This is all part of the evolution of the Starbucks licensed store experience," Starbucks spokesperson Nick Sampogna said. Customers also expressed their opinions; according to Jasmine Stafford, consultant and frequent flyer: “Oh, snap, this is a game-changer.”