By Willy Staley  Thu Aug 16, 2012

Dunkin’ Donuts Launches Mobile Payment App

Robert Banh/flickr source

Dunkin’ Donuts just released a mobile payments app that closely imitates Starbucks’ proprietary system, just as Starbucks announced it will be ditching its proprietary payments system for Square, the Jack Dorsey-led GPS-based payments system. Dunkin’ has been playing catch-up to Starbucks for years, trying to capture some of that company’s massive upscale coffee marketshare — but it’s just hard to take as seriously, right? The release of Dunkin’s highly derivative mobile payments app keeps this narrative alive, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing for Dunkin’.

According to the press release, Dunkin’s app will work like this. First you must download the app and load money onto your virtual Dunkin’ Donuts Card. Then: “Guests can purchase Dunkin’ Donuts products with the Dunkin’ App by simply tapping the mobile Dunkin’ Donuts Card and presenting the screen to the crew member to be scanned.” It’s almost exactly the same as Starbucks’ mobile card-based app.

Starbucks had great success with its scannable app, bringing in 42 million transactions through the channel in its first 16 months. Even if its just a virtual gift card, the appeal to consumers is apparently very real. But Starbucks has already moved on from this model, announcing a partnership with Square, which relies on smartphone’s GPS technology to make totally scan- and tap-free payments a possibility.

Dunkin’ might be late to the party, in a narrow sense, but its app also offers plenty of other channels for marketing opportunities. Users can send virtual gift cards to other Dunkin’ enthusiasts using email, text or Facebook. The app will also have a Dunkin’ Donuts locator built in.

This announcement also comes on the heels of another retailer-led mobile payments app, the MCX, led by Sears, Walmart, Target and other large retail chains. It’s possible that retailers, and not tech companies, could take the lead in the mobile payments space. After all, they know best what their customers want and how best to serve them.

The Dunkin’ app is now available for iPhone, iPod Touch and Android at the iTunes Store and Google Play, respectively.

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