Shiru Café: Where Data Buys Your Coffee

October 12, 2018 Victoria Pallien

Inside Higher Ed college students free coffee shiru cafe pay with data

Not your dad, not your date, not you. Your first-party data is buying your coffee at Shiru Café — if you’re a student. The Japanese chain’s first U.S. location, near Brown University in Providence, RI, only serves college students and university faculty members (though faculty pay $1 per cup), meaning the cafe is unable to tend to tourists and adults. As NPR puts it, no college ID, no caffeine.

How do you pay at Shiru Café?

To order a coffee, students need to hand over a portfolio of first-party data, including their names, phone numbers, email addresses, majors, birthdates and professional interests. They’ll walk away with their coffees and, the next time they check their inboxes, they may find information from the café’s corporate sponsors.

How does Shiru Café profit?

Corporate sponsors pay the coffee shop to reach clientele through apps, digital ads and logos on screens in the shop. Sponsors can also reach the shop’s consumers through mobile devices, signs, surveys and the in-store baristas, as they are informed of additional sponsor information that may be helpful for students. Students can also expect to receive emails from the shop’s sponsors after enjoying a beverage.

shiru cafe free coffee college students

Is Shiru Café seeing foot traffic?

The store’s assistant manager, Sarah Ferris, notes she hasn’t seen a single student refuse to give up their first-party data, though two Brown students did boycott the shop’s business in a letter to The Brown Daily Herald. By the end of this semester, Shiru estimates they will register 75% of Brown students, as more than 600 customers pass through the shop every day. Each time a student provides their data, the shop’s portfolio is kept fresh and verified.

Is Shiru Café being met with any hesitancy?

Aside from the letter to The Brown Daily Herald, Shiru Café seems to be met with smiling faces and willingness to unveil personal data. Nina Wolff Landau, a junior at Brown University said, "To give out my name and email and what I study does not seem so risky to me." Perhaps many students hope to benefit from their data under the assumption that their information is already out there, an approach Killi tells individuals they should take advantage of.

Where is Shiru Café going next?

The café is aiming for college towns as it operates 17 locations in Japan and 4 in India (with 3 under construction) all near universities. In the U.S., the brand plans to open new shops near Yale University, Amherst College, Harvard University and Princeton University — to start.

Shiru Café: Where Data Buys Your Coffee

Reactions from digital marketing professionals in our office

If this café had come to my college when I was a student, I probably would’ve gone every day — as long as their coffee is good. It seems like they’re asking for the type of information students put on LinkedIn to promote themselves as professionals, so I don’t see the harm. All I see is competition for local shops.

I wouldn’t do it. It seems like a good idea, but it sounds like you’re giving them too much. I’d rather just pay for the coffee. I just want coffee, not all this hassle. I’d rather not be bothered with all the promotional material that will come my way afterward.

I’m torn, honestly. On one hand, that information is probably already out there, but at the same time, it feels like that’s giving away my privacy, which I don’t want to do.

Perhaps Shiru Café is showing young consumers that their first-party data is just as valuable as money. Already successful in two other countries, only time will tell how quickly Shiru Café will grow in the U.S.

Click here to read more about college student trends.


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About the Author

Victoria Pallien

Victoria Pallien is a Marketing Communications Writer at Digital Media Solutions (DMS), the fastest-growing independent digital performance marketing company. DMS helps its clients accelerate growth by deploying diversified and data-driven customer acquisition solutions that deliver scalable, sustainable and measurable marketing results. DMS performance marketing solutions connect the right consumers with the right offers at the right time to achieve the marketing objectives of our clients. DMS is continually innovating to provide new and emerging media and technology solutions that minimize waste and maximize results across the most competitive industries. Since its inception, DMS has demonstrated incredible year-over-year growth which has earned recognition on the Inc. 5000 list in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

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