Starbucks is getting into non-fungible tokens this year, interim CEO Howard Schultz said Monday as he addressed the need to reshape the experience for customers and employees alike in engaging with the coffee chain.
The company is working on “digital innovation through NFTs,” among other initiatives, and expects to unveil details in the weeks ahead, Starbucks said in a statement.
“Sometime before the end of this calendar year, we are going to be in the NFT business,” Schultz said at the company’s Open Forum held Monday. A video clip of his remarks about NFTs was shared online by Jordan Zakarin, a reporter and producer for More Perfect Union, a progressive non-profit news media organization.
“If you look at the companies, the brands, the celebrities, the influencers, that are trying to create a digital NFT platform and business, I can’t find one of them that has the treasure trove of assets that Starbucks has – from collectibles to entire heritage of the company,” he said, telling workers at the meeting he’s been studying the business of digital assets.
The market for NFTs – or blockchain-based tokens that give holders rights to mostly digital representations of music, art, and other collectibles – boomed in 2021, with trading volume soaring to $17.6 billion from just $82 million in 2020, according to a report from Nonfungible.com.
Among the most popular examples are the Bored Ape Yacht Club collections, the CryptoPunk art series, and last year’s sale by auction house Christie’s of an NFT art piece for more than $69 million.
Schultz’s NFT announcement was part of a broader address to workers just days after the company said he was returning to the company as interim CEO. He stepped into the role on Monday after Kevin Johnson ended a five-year run at the helm.
Schultz is returning at a time the company is traversing through the ongoing coronavirus pandemic that at times has shut down physical locations worldwide. As well, he’s returning in a strong unionization climate sweeping the US. Schultz last week suspended Starbucks’ planned share buyback program, saying the move will allow it to invest more in its “people and our stores” to create long-term value for its shareholders.
“We have to reimagine, most importantly, the experience for our partners,” Schultz said at the forum. “It’s not just wage- it’s the environment in the store, it’s the joy, it’s the sense of community, it’s fulfillment and most importantly, it’s them feeling as if we’ve answered the question in the affirmative, ‘What’s in it for you?'”
Meanwhile, customers are not using Starbucks’ stores as a “third-place environment”- meaning a social hub besides the home and workplace- in the same ways anymore.
“All those stores that we have that have big lobbies, they may not be as relevant tomorrow as they have been in the past,” Schultz added. “We have to redefine, redesign our store experience.”