Starbucks customers in China now have the option to use WeChat Pay to buy their coffee at nearly 2,500 Starbucks stores across the country.
Through a partnership between Starbucks and Tencent Holdings Limited, the Seattle coffee giant becomes the first retail brand to have digital payment and gifting capabilities through WeChat, the popular social media platform in China.
Tencent Holdings says it has 846 million global monthly active-user WeChat accounts, of which more than 300 million have linked bank cards to WeChat Pay or QQ, another service through Tencent.
The partnership currently allows customers to make purchases in a Starbucks store, with the ability to pass along Starbucks gifts expected by early 2017. The online social gifting platform is part of Starbucks' digital channel strategy, which includes its Starbucks mobile app, the My Starbucks Rewards program and a presence on various social media channels.
Customers in China will be able to select Starbucks-branded gifts and products to send along with a message. Recipients can redeem the gifts at Starbucks stores.
“Starbucks and Tencent share similar values to enable greater human connections through our respective products and services,” Belinda Wong, CEO of Starbucks China, stated in a Dec. 9 press release. “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, Wong said, the company wants to also become "the most gifted brand digitally in China.”
Earlier this year, Starbucks launched its mobile payment system in China to provide My Starbucks Rewards members the ability to make purchases with pre-loaded Starbucks gift cards on their mobile devices.
Starbucks' mobile imprint continues to grow, as the company reported earlier this year that one in four purchases made at is stores were through mobile payment devices.