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How much does it cost to make an app like Starbucks

Starbucks mobile app strategy has been paying off enormously, there is no denying it. Some also argue that Starbucks payment app went ahead of such digital payment systems as Samsung and Apple. But its success lies not only in ability to pay with smartphone for coffee lovers, much as in loyalty and rewards program. So curiosity about how much does it cost to make an app like Starbucks is only natural.

Starbucks coffee stores are, practically, on every corner in major cities of USA and North America. As well as in many other countries, it is a well-known and established brand globally. So why did they need a mobile ordering app? And how to build an app like Starbucks?

20% of Starbucks transactions happen via mobile app,
with about 17 million people signed up

How does Starbucks app work

Starbucks mobile app for Android, iPhone and Windows 10 is an order-and-pay type of app. It allows users order drinks, pay ahead and pick it up in a store without waiting in line. Their system called Mobile order and pay Starbucks has quickly become the easiest option to pay with smartphone for Starbucks visitors.

One has to have a Starbucks gift card that he/she will use as usual credit card – just for Starbucks locations only. A card also serves to collect rewards. A user orders a drink in a certain store and gets a QR-code for digital payment. Then a cashier scans the code at the store and payment is made. Simple!

how to pay with Starbucks app

The other big part to Starbucks mobile app is customer loyalty program, which motivates to make regular orders. This is what actually other merchants and/or industries can use as an example to create a Starbucks-like loyalty program. Now let’s see what goes into making an app like Starbucks payment app.


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Starbucks app features

Starbucks mobile payments now account to over 20% of all their franchise transactions, the company claims. Now, that’s a clear sign of business fortune. Even Samsung and Apple mobile payments still have some serious homework to do to catch up with Starbucks payment app. To learn how to make mobile payment app like Starbucks, we need a closer look at its features.

Starbucks mobile app features and cost

Starbucks mobile app features:

  • Mobile Order and Pay Starbucks – to order coffee ahead and skip the line in shop. This feature is available nationwide in the USA, and enables mobile payment via iPhone and Android.
  • Manage cards – user can check their balance, upload money, pay for drinks at Starbucks stores, collect stars for rewards later, transfer money between cards, leave tips, view mobile payments history.
  • Customer loyalty program – to gather stars each time you pay for coffee drinks and to redeem rewards later. 2 stars for each dollar paid, while reaching 125 stars gives out first free reward. Similar Starbucks-like loyalty programs could be great models to emulate for a restaurant app or mobile ordering app.
  • Store locator – geolocation feature that helps users find nearest stores, to get directions and other useful information.
  • Now playing – highlighting music that is playing in a Starbucks store which the customer enters in the mobile app.

Starbucks mobile payments and rewards are two crucial components if you want to develop your own mobile app. Starbucks payments is a close loop system, meaning you can only use it to order and pay at their stores. So if your business runs a network of stores, think of ways to incentivize return purchases with an app like Starbucks.

Pay with your phone at 9.500 Starbucks stores in US,
1.000 stores in Canada and 700 stores in the U.K.

One more quick thing before we jump into app architecture and Starbucks app cost components, a short Q&A info about Starbucks payment app.

Starbucks payment app Q&A

Is Starbucks app free?

Yes, the Starbucks mobile payments app is free for download in official app stores. With it you pay for drinks you buy using Starbucks card at participating locations.

How do you use the Starbucks app to pay?

Install the Starbucks pay app, go to My Cards screen and click Pay. Hold your screen with a barcode against the scanner at the store, and system deducts your purchase from the card balance.

What is Starbucks Wallet?

Actually, the Apple Pay (Wallet) mobile payments system, that you can use to pay with at Starbucks too. iPhone users can add Starbucks card to Wallet from the Starbucks app directly. To conduct a mobile payment via iPhone tap Pay.

Can you use Apple Pay at Starbucks?

Yes, you can pay via the Starbucks iOS app. See the answer above. However, you can do this only through the Starbucks mobile app.

What is a Starbucks reward card?

It earns you 2 stars for every dollar you pay for coffee, food or merchandise with the Starbucks app or a registered card at participating stores.

How do I order from Starbucks mobile?

Use Order and Pay feature. Enable location services within the Starbucks app, tap the Order button, choose your drinks and get a bar code. Pay at your Starbucks store.

How to pay with your iPhone at Starbucks?

Buy a Starbucks gift card, register it, use it as a prepaid card, similar to any credit/debit card, pay with it for orders at Starbucks. Install the Starbucks iOS app on your phone, make upfront orders, make mobile payments via smartphone.

How to make mobile payment app?

Start with How to make an app in 10 steps for app development in general. Then you may contact our team to discuss your app idea :).

Cost components of Starbucks-like app

To make a mobile payments app one has to be aware of numerous factors in app development. The bitter pill is that you can not tell the precise and full cost of a mobile application beforehand. Too many aspects and unknowns at play in this regard. So to know how much does it cost to make an app like Starbucks – consider this.

Firstly, the structure of a Starbucks-like app would look like this: Backend > Native platforms development (iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, etc.) > Design/UX > Quality assurance (testing and bug fixing).

Then comes probably the most influential factor to make an app: developer hourly rates. As we’ve touched on this subject in previous posts, it’s your choice. Today’s market offers options from $25 to $150. This is why the same app may cost either $5.000 or $30.000.

App development cost is also impacted by:

  1. Development team hired – two freelance guys or full-cycle software agency, differing extremely;
  2. App platform – one of the options is to limit your app to one platform at the beginning as a way to save on development cost;
  3. App design – engaging, user-friendly, intuitive, modern… it has to be all of that, there’s no other way;
  4. Complexity of an app – number of app features, number of pages and possible scenarios, use of external services/tools, etc.

For our approximate estimate of the cost to make an app like Starbucks, we stick to median $50 hourly developer rate. So here is a basic calculation:

Number of hoursCost, in USD
QA / PM100$5.000
Total 1000$50.000

Let us elaborate.

Technology to make an app like Starbucks

Current Starbucks mobile payments app works on iOS, Android and Windows 10 devices. They work with various programming languages and models like HTML5 and Microsoft.NET along with additional tools. Those include Modernizr, a JavaScript library for HTML5, Polyfill for web-browsers.

Let’s see what else is in the Starbucks technology stack. It is somewhat veiled, though jQuery, a  JavaScript library, is known to be in use for easier scripting. As PHP application framework Starbucks developers use Laravel. Microsoft IIS is their web server, and Symantec SSL certificates for security and user confidentiality.

On one hand, these are not a defining factor in Starbucks app development cost, as you can use any other tools to make an app. On the other hand, it is beneficial to study and construct a tech stack for your app project.

Backend development

So we’ve learned that to make an app similar to Starbucks you have a starting point tip – HTML5, Microsoft .NET, Laravel, and jQuery. One may use these languages and frameworks to build a ground level for an app – a Starbucks app backend. The app architecture would look like this:

Starbucks mobile app architecture

User interface would be connected to app backend through REST API for instance. Main components to build an app like Starbucks, are billing, payments, shop locator, store and user management, notifications. And of course, order-and-pay is at the heart of it, enabling Starbucks customers to make a mobile payment via Android or iOS phones.

Estimated minimal backend development time for such project is 400 hours.

In conclusion

We should be again stressing, that key factor to the cost of a mobile payment app like Starbucks is developer rate. In practice it means your basic options are $50-80 hourly rate in European/South American/Asian countries, and $120-150 hourly rate of app development in the USA/UK/North America.

The second factor is complexity of an app. If you want just a simple Starbucks clone app with primary features, it may take about 500-600 hours. It will, basically, be the MVP of your app (minimum viable product). Full-feature app like Starbucks, amended, developed and tested, can be done in 1000+ hours.

With this in mind, we’ve banged it all down to approximate figures, and here is how much does it cost to make an app like Starbucks:

MVP at $50 rateMVP at $120 rateFull app at $50 rateFull app at $120 rate
QA / PM$5.000$12.000$5.000$12.000
Total cost (approx.)$30.000$36.000$50.000$120.000

In the general timeline of Starbucks app development back-end and actual application native development (Android/iPhone etc.) will be the most time-consuming parts. Around 40% and 30% respectively, while 15% of work will go to design and UX, and another 15% to web application, quality assurance and project management of Starbucks mobile app.

Starbucks app development timeline

To sum it all up, answering how much does it cost to make an app like Starbucks, the figures are as follows. The MVP version will range around $30,000 to $40,000, and full app will range from $50,000 to $120,000 or higher, depending on rates and other factors. Though, hiring app developers at ThinkMobiles at $30 rate can save you a certain amount.

Again, note that these are just generalized assertions, based on best practices of mobile app development, Starbucks app features and technology stack. The exact of your mobile payments app (or any app project) will expose itself when receiving a quote on real project.


Let's Build Your App Like Starbucks

Provide us with your contact details and we will contact you today

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Specialists will contact you ASAP.

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