Technology to Drive Your Profits

Can Mobile Ordering Drive More Reusable Cup Adoption in The USA?

Americans love their coffee. They also love the environment. In the US, over half of adults drink at least 1 cup every day and many other countries have even higher rates of coffee consumption. With the desire to drink our coffee on-the-go it’s worthwhile to step back and consider what is happening to all those disposable cups that are used every day to deliver coffee on the go.

A long-term problem that’s growing

Many customers assume that disposable coffee cups can be recycled. However, most of the cups are lined with a layer of polyethylene to make the cup waterproof. Unfortunately, because the materials can’t be easily separated, this can make it difficult for the cup to be recycled. Every year coffee drinkers in the US throw away 50 billion disposable coffee cups and, because so few recycling facilities can process them, most end up in landfills.

The problem of cup waste is one that coffee retailers, quick service restaurants, and live events operators have recognized. Efforts are underway to encourage the adoption of reusable cups, but it is proving difficult to change long-ingrained human behavior.

Current efforts to reduce disposable cup use

To reduce cup waste, Starbucks, whose customers are known to consume approximately 4 billion cups a year globally, has made attempts to drive change with the launch of a reusable cup priced at $1. The chain also offers customers 10 cents off certain drinks when served in a reusable cup.

Many festivals and colleges have also started re-use schemes including the Bonnaroo music and arts festival in Tennessee that sells reusable stainless-steel beer cups and gives a $1 discount on all refills at beer stands during the event. The University of Washington’s campus offers a 25 cent discount to customers who bring their own cup.

Despite these early efforts into persuading customers to say goodbye to single-use cups, most are yet to make the switch. This fact leaves us to question if discounts alone don’t help, can we add anything else into the mix to change customer behavior?

Mobile ordering and loyalty technology influences customer behavior and can improve customer adoption of reusable cups.

While you can describe much of modern humanity as caffeine addicts, you can equally declare them internet-reliant. In 2016, the USA had close to 265 million internet users. This figure is projected to grow to 288 million in 2021.

How can we take advantage of coffee addiction and a very high internet dependency to drive reusable cup adoption? Well, with more than 80 percent of Americans using a smartphone and the nation glued to its screens, mobile and online ordering services used for purchasing food and drink, provide an ideal route through which coffee purveyors can reach and promote the cause while selling more coffee.

The combination of pre-order and pre-pay data provides a rounded view of customer habits and preferences. This seamless gathering of valuable customer data enables the business to create effective loyalty schemes and engage in optimized marketing efforts that influence user behavior.

Customers expect businesses to know them more intimately. Such positive experiences generate loyalty, and loyalty can be used to a business’s advantage. Now suppose that advantage happens to be selling and encouraging the use of reusable cups?

Imagine the scenario: a cafe encourages a loyal user of its app to sign-up to its reusable cup scheme. That customer then pre-orders their drink, walks in and collects it in a reusable cup. Now, next time, all they need do is swap their used cup for a fresh drink, in a fresh cup. The cafe would take the dirty cup back, clean it, and hand it out with the next pre-order that comes in. It would save the customer time and money and it would dramatically reduce the need for paper cups.

Of course, mobile ordering and loyalty is only part of the solution. For the greatest chance of success, it should to be combined with financial or other incentives, such as those being offered by the large coffee chains already described, as well as clear environmental messaging.

To do so will prompt consumers to invest in a reusable cup to realize financial benefits and a sense they are helping the environmental benefits. It seems clear to us that, should mobile ordering and loyalty be embedded into food and beverage retailer strategies, rapid growth in reusable cup adoption is both realistic and achievable and this will benefit sales and customer loyalty.

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