Starbucks Crowdsources Two Obvious Apps That Every Retailer Should Have!

Starbucks has announced that they are fielding two applications, in test, that help users find their stores, explore the menu and nutritional information.  They are have an application which allows customers to recharge their Starbucks card, and enables the phone to display a bar code -- which acts as a payment mechanism.  Both were created due to the feedback they got from their site: My Starbucks Idea, a crowdsourcing location for the firm. starbuckscard_iPhone

As helpful as these ideas are -- aren't they obvious?  Is there ANY retailer who should not have an iPhone application that allows people to find their stores, and get information about their products and services.  Given the value of stored value cards to the merchant, where the store gets the money up front, customers often "lose" them -- which is pure profit, and there are often charges to use the card -- all of which create profit for the vendor, on top of the things that the customer purchases in the store -- shouldn't every store create these applications right away?  In addition, we know from behavioral economics that people are much, much more likely to spend money that has been already allocated to a category -- like Starbucks -- then they are to spend undifferentiated money from their wallet.  My friend Dan Ariely calls this "mental accounting", and its a powerful incentive to use.

In short, there are some things on the iPhone that are becoming as obvious today, as certain web-site features were in the late 1990s.  It's time for every retailer to get on the bandwagon.

Vannevar Bush: I forgot he predicted Google and Wikipedia!

The Netflix Prize: Designing a market for ideas... (Also posted at HBR)