Starbucks Continues Its Expansion Into China With WeChat Promotion

Good news for caffeine lovers in China: Starbucks has introduced coffee gifting via WeChat, the country’s top messaging app. The feature arrives just in time for Valentine’s Day, and the promotion’s name — “Say it with Starbucks” — is even a play on words since the Chinese version sounds similar to “Say it with your heart,” according to Ad Age.

As part of its expansion into China after a recent partnership with Tencent, a Chinese investment holding company, Starbucks is now giving customers in mainland China the opportunity to send coffee, other Starbucks drinks or gifts to a friend via a new setting inside WeChat.

The recipient receives the gift inside WeChat and then shows it at a Starbucks branch to redeem the item. There’s also a variety of online gift cards to choose from, including thank you and birthday wishes. There are even a few LGBT-themed cards available — a rarity in China.

TechCrunch reported that WeChat recently revealed it has 768 million daily users, making it the country’s most popular messaging app. It includes everything from basic chatting and eCommerce to taxi-hailing and online payments. Gifting is highly popular in China: This past Chinese New Year, over 46 billion hongbao (red envelopes containing cash, often in small sums) were shared between WeChat users in the six days to mark the holiday. It makes sense that Starbucks wants to capitalize on the tradition.

Starbucks is growing fast in China and aims to double its locations there in the next five years to reach 5,000 stores.

The venture also helps WeChat stay competitive with its biggest rival, Alibaba, which tried and failed to develop its own app to compete with WeChat. One of the biggest blunders was a messaging feature that resulted in men offering to pay women for hookups. But the company’s Alipay is China’s top payments service with 450 million users, making it a major rival for WeChat.

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