Starbucks wants to leave its rivals in the digital realm far behind.

Its drive in the tech arena ranges from connecting with 22 million fans worldwide via Facebook to a payments app for smart phones.

The coffee giant plans to roll out that mobile payments system to all company-operated U.S. stores by the end of March.

Credit Suisse analysts have called this push a “very buzzworthy”  initiative that should help Starbucks maintain its lead in all things digital.

Prepaid Card Link

The free app for smart phones, dubbed the Starbucks Card Mobile App,  allows customers to link prepaid cards to their phones. They can then buy coffee with their handsets by calling up an on-screen bar code that baristas read with a scanner.

Chuck Davidson says Starbucks (SBUX)  didn’t launch the app just to do something hip with smart phones. He is the category manager for innovation on the Starbucks Card team.

“This wasn’t necessarily ‘Let’s do a technology phone play.’ This was ‘Let’s make sure we understand what our customer wants,’” Davidson said. “If you think about an app on a phone, people are going to delete it if you don’t give them value.”

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