Starbucks' Scanless Pay: The Future of Drive-Throughs

Starbucks pioneers a novel drive-through experience, eliminating the need for barcode scans with their innovative geolocation-based payment system

Starbucks' Scanless Pay: The Future of Drive-Throughs

Friday August 25, 2023,

2 min Read

Starbucks is trialing a new contactless payment system for its drive-through customers called “scanless pay.” This system utilises the geolocation feature of the Starbucks app, eliminating the need for users to scan their app's barcode.

The innovation, currently being tested among Starbucks employees, was uncovered by developer Steve Moser. Here's how it works: users, after opting into the feature, check in via the mobile app when they approach a participating drive-through. They then notify the barista of their check-in after placing their order. Once this is done, they simply receive their order at the window, bypassing the traditional payment process.

The benefits of such a system are manifold:

  1. Enhanced Speed: The absence of barcode scanning could result in faster order processing at drive-throughs.
  2. Increased Revenue: Quicker services may lead to more customers served, possibly boosting Starbucks' revenue.
  3. Digital Pioneering: Starbucks has consistently led the charge in digital payment innovations. Notably, their Mobile Order & Pay feature played a pivotal role, accounting for a whopping 74% of the U.S. company-operated income in Q2 2023, especially when paired with drive-through and delivery services.

While Starbucks' venture into scanless payments is promising, it's not the first of its kind. Amazon, for instance, has its "Just Walk Out" technology that uses cameras, machine learning, and apps for contactless payments. They also introduced the Amazon One system, which employs palm-scanning for payments. But, these systems have raised eyebrows due to the use of biometrics. On the other hand, Starbucks' approach resembles more user-friendly models, such as Instacart, where temporary location access merely lets the store know you've arrived.

While still in the testing phase, the potential of "scanless" payments in shaping the future of drive-throughs is undeniable. Given Starbucks' influential position in digital payments, this innovation could set a trend for others to follow.