The INSIDER Summary:
- There’s a reason why Starbucks always ends up costing you a little more than you expected.
- They’ve figured out that Frappuccino and iced coffee lovers are always willing to try new variations.
- Their stars rewards program makes spending more enticing.
- Changing decor and pricing strategies can also influence how much you’re willing to spend.
Hitting up Starbucks can be like shopping at Target: You start wondering if you should just move in already, because the amount you’re spending there basically qualifies as a second rent. (And hey, the armchairs are comfier than your Craigslist find, anyway.) Even if you’re not the latte-a-day type every money-saving article warns you about, those trips add up.
Here’s what’s worth keeping in mind the next time that siren logo calls your name.
They know that if they Frappuccino it, people will come.
It’s no accident there’s been a new drink on Starbucks‘ menus every few weeks since the Unicorn Frappuccino launched. Limited-time offers have long been a marketing trick to get people in stores — after all, there’s only a short time frame for you to see what the buzz is about — and the ‘Bucks is no different. See the Midnight Mocha Frappuccino, Matcha Lemonade, Violet Drink, Prickly Pear Frappuccino Creme and Mango Pineapple Frappuccino Creme as just a few recent examples.
Playing on scarcity (and buzzworthiness) has paid off: The brand saw its same-store sales climb 4 percent in March, according to its quarterly sales call.
They turned ordering into a game.
Starbucks‘ riff on those old “buy 9, get the 10th free” punch cards is truly ingenious. Load money onto its gift card, which you can sync with an app on your phone, and you earn “stars” (AKA rewards points) for every dollar you spend. Earn a certain amount, and you get any one item on the menu for free.
It’s a loyalty program that’s made it easier than ever to be loyal, but the brand’s raised the stakes: On certain days you can earn double stars for every dollar you spend, increasing the allure of that Java Chip Frappuccino you’ve been craving. It’s no wonder more than $5.1 billion was loaded onto gift cardsin 2015 alone.
They one-upped your iced coffee addiction.
While other chains draw you in with the promise of a super-cheap cup of joe, Starbucks takes a different tack. As iced coffee started to soar in popularity, the brand started releasing new, premium variations on the drink – that all cost significantly more. As CNBC noted, a traditional iced coffee at the chain’s Seattle shops will set you back $2.95, but a Nariño cold brew costs $3.45, and a Nitro Cold Brew with sweet cream goes for $4.45.
You’re less discerning about the cost of drinks.
Starbucks is, at its core, a drink company, and that works in its favor. People usually don’t pay as much attention to the price of a drink as they do main dishes, Golden Gate University consumer psychology professor Kit Yarrow told the Associated Press. Often, people will choose larger sizes than they need (say, a venti over a grande, or a trenta over a venti), just because they’re so close in cost.
Yarrow was talking about the restaurant industry as a whole, but it applies to Starbucks as well. When a Frappuccino costs $4.75 for a tall, paying another 50 cents to get a venti — according to prices listed in New York cafes — is easy to justify. Even if you’d be full off of the smaller, 12-ounce size.
You’re not seeing the dollar signs.
Like many restaurants around the country, Starbucks’ menus don’t have dollar signs next to the prices. That may be an aesthetics call — who knows, maybe Howard Schultz thinks the symbol’s tacky — but a Cornell study found that it also causes you to spend more. It’s like the absence of the dollar sign makes you forget just how pricey the dish — or drink — in question truly is.
It’s everywhere you look.
Remember when Starbucks launched that siren Snapchat filter? It was more than an ad or a way to get your mermaid on; it can also be a trigger to inspire you to grab a cup of coffee (or some sous vide egg bites, if that’s your thing).
Essentially, a trigger is anything that puts the brand at the top of your mind, writes Wharton professor Jonah Berger in his book, Contagious: Why Things Catch On. In that sense, Starbucks’ Unicorn Frapp makes even more sense: As the trend went viral, the brand was at the forefront. You hear “unicorn,” you think Starbucks. Wanna grab a Frapp yet?
They’re always changing up the decor.
Every so often, Starbucks changes its floor layout, swapping out the art, the chairs, and shelves. It’s part of creating that home-y, “third space” environment that makes you want to spend all day there (and, perhaps, order another drink — or blueberry muffin). But, even more so, mixing up the floor plan has an added bonus: It gets you to notice new things — including new products you may not have tried before.
In fact, that’s why most stores you visit — supermarkets included — often freshen things up with a little reorg every now and then, according to Business Insider.
You’re hooked on Frappy Hour.
Here’s where scarcity comes into play, yet again — you know you can only get half-priced Frappuccinos during Starbucks’ “Frappy Hour” for a certain time frame, so you rush out to treat yo’self to a good deal. The problem? You probably wouldn’t have gone to the cafe otherwise, so even at 50 percent off, you’re spending more than you would have.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with indulging from time to time, so if you have the budget for it, go for it. But if you’re sitting at the end of the week wondering why your bank account’s a little lower than expected, little triggers like this could be it.
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