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  • Writer's pictureDanielle van Hout

Eye on AI - December 9th, 2022

Welcome to Aigora's "Eye on AI" series, where we round up exciting news at the intersection of consumer science and artificial intelligence!


We return to food tech this week as we break down Starbucks’ new NFT-based loyalty program, now in beta, before diving into a recent company-wide implementation of AI phone-answering systems.


Starbucks’ NFT-Based Loyalty Program Now In Beta

You may remember a post we released a few months back covering Starbucks’ announcement of Starbucks Odyssey, their new NFT-based loyalty program. After months of anticipation, the program is finally ready for beta testing. The article “Starbucks opens up its web3 loyalty program and NFT community to first beta testers” outlines what the program is about, and how beta testing will begin.

“Odyssey introduces a new platform where customers can engage with interactive activities called ‘Journeys’ that, when complete, allow members to earn collectible Journey Stamps — which is Starbucks’ less geeky name for NFTs,” writes TechCrunch contributor Sarah Perez. “The points accumulate over the course of the year, instead of being redeemed for rewards (like Stars are). At year-end, the points reset and you’d start over.”

Odyssey’s aforementioned ‘journeys’ include activities like watching videos, taking quizzes, playing puzzles, or trying new promotional drinks in-store. What makes Starbucks Odyssey unique is that it’s connected to the company’s existing loyalty program, business goals, and mobile payment technologies; in other words, it’s more than just a marketing gimmick.

“At around 500 points, members will earn Stamps — that is, a coffee-themed NFT hosted on the Polygon blockchain,” continues Perez. “These Stamps also unlock special experiences. There will be three levels of benefits and experiences that can be unlocked.”

Experiences range from virtual classes that teach users how to make espresso martinis to unique artist merchandise. At the more advanced levels, real-world event access is unlocked, including special events hosted at Starbucks Reserve Roasteries or even trips to the Starbucks Hacienda Alsacia coffee farm in Costa Rica.

Starbucks will begin the program by letting a portion of waitlisted users (here’s the sign-up) test Odyssey and offer feedback to help work out early kinks. According to Starbucks, beta sign-ups have already “far exceeded” expectations, though exact numbers have yet to be released. Time will tell how popular the program becomes, though it seems Starbucks’ unique experiential offerings will be exponentially more engaging than that free coffee punch card stuffed away in your wallet.

Anthony’s Pizza Launches Company-Wide AI Phone-Answering System

While the Odyssey program is impressive, Starbucks is hardly the only food chain tapping into AI tech enhancements. Another example is Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza & Wings, which, according to the article “Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza & Wings Introduces Artificial Intelligence Phone Answering System to Stay Ahead of Consumer Ordering Preferences,” is launching AI-driven phone answering services at all sixty of its corporate-owned locations.

“There's no question that automation is the future, which is why Anthony's was an early adaptor of this technology” says Ian Baines, Chief Executive Officer at BurgerFi International Inc. “Anthony's started testing AI two years ago with different vendors. Initially, the technology appeared somewhat inconsistent. However, the longer it runs, the more responsive it becomes as the algorithms learn to react to the customer order and then upsell…”

The new AI uses ConverseNow AI technology, which is designed to handle 100% of calls answered, with an expected average purchase increase of 10-12%. Guests will also be able to integrate loyalty numbers into the system to earn points and rewards.

In total, the restaurants receive 500,000 phone orders a year. By implementing AI into its phone systems, Anthony’s should see a significant boost in order efficiency, with its off-premises orders accounting for nearly 50% of sales. 15% of those are phone orders. Company-wide AI implementations like these are still unique. Expect this trend to continue as smaller-scale testing continues to prove effective.

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