Last year Starbucks and Square announced a partnership that would make paying for that latte with your smartphone that much easier. Now, in what appears to be Starbucks' first foray into the retail technology space, the coffee chain will start selling Square mobile card readers at its 7,000 U.S. stores.
The card readers will cost $10 each, with a $10 rebate available for new users of the service. And while it may seem odd that the coffee chain now offers a tech device along with muffins and bean juice, Starbucks invested $25 million in Square just last year, along with the company's CEO, Howard Schultz, joining the Square board of directors, so this attempt at synergy was something to be expected.
Extrapolating further, the strategy of putting the mobile card readers in the coffee outlets actually makes a lot of sense when you consider how many entrepreneurs and remote-working freelancers use Starbucks' seating and free Wi-Fi to serve as a kind of unofficial co-working space. Also, now that Starbucks is officially a tech retailer of sorts, is it really that far fetched to imagine the chain selling mobile devices (smartphones, tablets, etc.) sometime in the near future? In terms of the overall retail dynamic, how far is it to go from card reader to tablet?
But no matter what this retail shift in strategy portends for the future of the coffee chain, the immediate question is whether or not entrepreneurs and independent workers will have the awareness and interest in Square to make the Starbucks pairing ultimately pay off.