Starbucks' controversial rewards program is key to the future of the coffee giant's business

Starbucks Rewards Program Not So Rewarding

While customers may have protested Starbucks' changes to its loyalty program earlier this year, now, membership numbers are skyrocketing.

Membership in the coffee giant's loyalty program increased 18% year-over-year to 12.3 million active members in the US, the company reported on Thursday.

Growth of the loyalty program seems to be accelerating in the US. In April, the company reported 16% year-over-year growth from the same quarter last year, with12 million active loyalty members.

Starbucks' loyalty program has come under fire in 2016, due to a controversial revamp in early April. While many customers said the new program was more confusing and required members to spend more money to achieve rewards, the changes have ultimately seceded in drawing new members to Starbucks Rewards.

Starbucks provided some major incentives for customers to sign up for the revamped rewards program. The chain upgraded customers to Gold rewards status automatically if they made a purchase using their Starbucks card or app between April 12 and May 2.

The revamped loyalty program has also received positive feedback from analysts.

"The more money spent, the more stars earned... which is, all else equal, more incentive to spend more money," Nomura analyst Mark Kalinowski wrote of the revamped rewards program in a research note.

With more loyalty program members comes more mobile order and pay orders, as both initiatives are heavily linked to Starbucks' app. Starbucks reported that mobile order and pay usage now makes up 5% of US transactions, up from 4% in the second quarter.

Further, the new rewards program is key to expanding Starbucks' rewards program far beyond coffee. In March, Starbucks announced it would be releasing a prepaid Visa card by the end of the year that allows customers to earn rewards points, or 'stars,' to be used at Starbucks every time they use the card.

While the new Starbuck Rewards has boosted new member counts, Starbucks fell short of analyst expectations for the quarter. The coffee giant reported on Thursday it earned $5.24 billion in fiscal-third-quarter revenue, missing the forecast for $5.34 billion, according to Bloomberg.

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RELATED: Copycat Starbucks recipes to try at home

Starbucks copycat recipes
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Starbucks copycat recipes

Starbucks Pumpkin Scones

"These are SO amazing. They taste just like Starbucks'. Do not change a thing! And do not leave out the spice frosting!" -Kabwe Cook

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Starbucks Lemon Loaf

"I give this six stars! It looks beautiful and is just delicious. I work next to a Starbucks and this is 10 times better!" -Linda Saslove

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Starbucks Light Coffee Frappuccino

"Perfect proportions! This is a very nice coffee drink and such a bargain! I added just a bit of cocoa powder to make mine a mocha frappuccino." -Chef Kate

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Starbucks Blueberry Oat Squares

"These wholesome bars are just like Starbucks' blueberry squares — if not better! My favorite things about this recipe are the oatmeal base and crumble topping." -lilsweetie 

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Starbucks Lemon-Tipped Biscotti

"These are absolutely wonderful! The dough was easy to work with and the biscotti turned out perfect." -Aaliyah's&Aaron'sMum

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Starbucks Hot Chocolate

"This is great hot chocolate! It's better than Starbucks' because I can make it at home. I love it! I used soy milk and Splenda and it was still delicious." -kittycatmom

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Cranberry Bliss Bars

"I love cranberries, and this very easy recipe is a nice way to use them. I tinted the frosting pink by thinning it with cranberry juice. Everything came out great. I know I'll make these again!" -Lynne the Pirate Queen

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Green Tea Latte

Enjoy a frothy pick-me-up with this energizing mix of Matcha green tea and soy milk! If you prefer, dairy works equally well.

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Starbucks Banana Walnut Bread

"This is my new favorite banana bread! It was sweet, dense and bananalicious! I don't even care how many calories are in each slice. It's worth it." - addicted2foodnetwork

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Starbucks Outrageous Oatmeal Cookies

"One word to sum it up: delicious! Good ol' Starbucks never fails. I just finished baking them 15 minutes ago and have already eaten three! Photos don't do these cookies justice — you have to try them for yourself." -KiwiMegan

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Coconut Mocha Frappuccino

"This is wonderful! I was looking for a good excuse to have it, and was happy when my neighbor came to visit. It was perfect! I'm printing and passing the recipe on to my neighbor right now upon her request." -Chef Mommie

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Starbucks Chewy Fruit & Nut Bars

"After spending loads on commercially made fruit and nut bars, I'll never buy them again! These are great for a boost of energy when you need it, and they're easy to vacuum seal for on-the-go." -scented08

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Starbucks Gingerbread Latte

"I love this recipe! So many gingerbread latte recipes use store-bought gingerbread syrup. I was glad to find one I could make with ingredients I already have." -MBMommy

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Starbucks Marble Pound Cake

The secret to creating this rich loaf is twofold: cake flour to give it that signature soft texture, and lemon zest to make the vanilla batter sing.

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Starbucks Caramel Macchiato

"I am perhaps the biggest Caramel Macchiato lover in the world. I recently moved to a small town from the big city and was so missing Starbucks — because of this drink! I'm SO glad I found this recipe." -megs_

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