Tencent and Starbucks in partnership for social gifting feature on WeChat

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 December, 2016, 2:33am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 December, 2016, 2:33am

Starbucks and Tencent Holdings on Wednesday announced a strategic partnership to co-create a new social gifting feature on WeChat, China’s leading mobile social communications service, in early 2017.

The partnership positions Starbucks as the first retail brand to combine and bring a locally-relevant social gifting and digital payment experience to life on WeChat in China.

Tapping into the 846 million global monthly active user accounts as of the third quarter of 2016, the new integrated feature will seamlessly allow customers in China to instantly and conveniently gift Starbucks to a friend or loved one. Starbucks customers will also be able to use WeChat Pay to make purchases at close to 2,500 Starbucks stores across the country.

“Starbucks and Tencent share similar values to enable greater human connections through our respective products and services, and I am pleased to partner with an established and respected social and mobile industry leader in China,” said Belinda Wong, the CEO of Starbucks China.

“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, we aspire to also become the most gifted brand digitally in China.”

“The strategic cooperation between WeChat and Starbucks enables us to bring the unique Starbucks retail experience seamlessly to hundreds of millions of WeChat users in China,” said Allen Zhang, Senior Executive Vice President of Tencent.

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Customers will be able to select from Starbucks-branded gifts and products and add a personalised message. Recipients can save their gifts and memories on their WeChat accounts and redeem their gift at Starbucks stores across China.

As part of this partnership, Starbucks will introduce the use of WeChat Pay for purchases in its retail stores. This cash-free digital payment services in China, with more than 300 million users linking their bank cards with WeChat or QQ, another service of Tencent, as of March 2016.

WeChat is one of the world’s fastest growing social apps with hundreds of millions of users internationally.

Starbucks plans to add 12,000 locations globally in the next five years, signalling that the world’s largest coffee-shop chain still considers brick-and-mortar expansion a major part of its growth strategy.

The target includes expanding to 5,000 cafes in China, the Seattle-based company said Wednesday in a statement. The global goal would bring Starbucks’ total store base to 37,000, a 48 per cent increase from its current level.