Starbucks Launching Digital Skip-the-Line Payment January 19 in Vancouver

Recently I had the pleasure of sitting down with some lovely folks from Starbucks’ corporate office in Toronto, who are in Vancouver to premier their new payment operating system. Dubbed “Mobile Order & Pay,” the system’s perks are premium ones; order from your phone, pick up in store.

No lines. No wait (hopefully).

As an avid coffee fiend, I was intrigued by the further development of payment tech. Especially when it comes to locations such as coffee shops, and really any other physical point of purchase where online sales have not yet infected.

The focus on ease-of-payment is something the industry is taking extremely serious. There have been many strides in digital wallet technology/application. And it’s apparent that the access we have to bookstores, digital content, and Amazon, have tainted our pattern of in-person browsing, leading to the ever-present decline in retail business.

But the implied practice of Starbucks’ new tech will redefine a business transaction previously untouched by the digital world. Other than the introduction to digital card barcodes, the experience of walking into a coffee shop, speaking with a skilled barista before enjoying a beverage made just for you, may just change forever.

“We know people will still come in, and enjoy a drink, sit in a comfortable chair, and engage in conversation or work,” Said Jessica Mills, Director of Brand and Digital for Starbucks Canada.

And from what I understand, she’s right. Their new Mobile Order & Pay system is not designed for the loungers, the bloggers, the students, and the writers (I’m typing this in a Starbucks), who are going to use the familiar atmosphere and above-average cafe fair as a place to get things done.

This addition to their already popular app is designed for those whom grumble as they wait in a line to order, before waiting in a cluster to receive. The office receptionist that has to run down the block to grab a dozen beverages for a meeting. The morning commuters. The on-the-go type.

It’s a simple concept, executed with extreme attention to detail.

It’s early. Too early.

The fog from the dusk’s breach still clings to the streets of Vancouver. You’re out the door in good time. Maybe even record time. Heading for the bus.

The bus is busy, but you don’t mind; you’ve got the road map of today’s tasks cycling through your mind. Ziggy Stardust playing in your ears.

Ground control, you’ve got a hankering for a delicious Flat White. You deserve it. Look at you. A powerful entity on a war path to kick the ass of your actionable checklist. But you know you will be arriving slightly late should you stop to indulge. Your boss, while he may not verbally express disapproval of your tardiness, the look posed across their face says more than is tolerable to being with.

But wait.

You open your Starbucks App. Hit the Order button. And there she is. The beautiful list of everything you’ve ever ordered from the application. Just sitting there. You can easily re-order something again. Don’t want something you’ve had before? Well, alright. The application comes jam packed with every iteration of a classic Starbucks beverage you could imagine. Name it. It’s there. Grande half-sweet, almond milk, flat white with cinnamon dust and low fat whip coming right up.

Want a slice of banana bread too? Throw it in there.

You hit “Order” and you see a map. A list of all the Starbucks locations in Vancouver. Zooming in, you find the one around the corner from your office building and hit select. “You’re 20 minutes away from this location” says your screen, as you make your way off the bus and into the Skytrain station. You confirm your order.

“Your order will be ready in 19 minutes,” it reads. As you double check to make sure that the balance of your order was removed from your Starbucks account the train doors chime before closing.

Only a few more stops left. “Your order will be ready in 6 minutes,” says the app.

You disembark the train, and walk along the concrete sidewalks towards the beverage of your dreams. Today is going to be a good day.

Just as you reach for the door of the shop, your phone reads “Your order is ready for pickup.” And you hear the Barista exclaim your order as they place is on the delivery counter.


Look out today. You’re fueled to win.

This application isn’t just a tooty-fruity change in the way we purchase something. It’s a change in the way we order.

Hence the name. Order & Pay. When you place your order, the system recognizes your distance and estimated travel time, and caches your order. Then, when it has optimally determined the drink will be ready at the same time as you arrive, it will print a sticker at the till.

Much like the hand-written barista notes, these stickers include all of your beverage customizations. The cashier sticks it onto a cup, and poof! You’re in the queue like a normal in-person order would be.

Obviously there’s some human error. Slow production (or fast, if you prefer your drink hot) could alter the time at which you have to wait after arriving at the location. But it tries.

Launching in Vancouver on January 19 on both Android and iOS, the Order & Pay system looks to become the ultimate tool in caffienated convenience. Already a major success in the US (who have had the app since the autumn 2015) it has taken a year of intense revision to go from test to launch. And will be available at “every location in Vancouver—134 total,” said Mills. As its a simple additional printer plugged in at the cash counter, and uses the already in place POS systems.

Toronto has had the iOS update since Oct, and will be launching the Android update today. “We’re seeing a huge impact.” Says Mills. The rest of Canada will get the update later this spring.

To download the Starbucks App for Android go here, and iOS here.

I’m excited to use this program to death in the coming weeks. And furthermore, am enthralled to see where things like this can take commerce as a whole into the future.

Sorry, troglodytes: lines are so 2015.