Yesterday Starbucks launched their new Valentine’s augmented reality (AR) cups.  It’s quite a clever way to get customers to not only drink their morning coffee but to buy one for a loved one.

All you need to do is download the app from Starbucks and you can “experience your valentine” as the heart on the side of the cup comes to life.

While in the app, you can create a virtual AR valentine which can only be seen if the recipient scans the Valentine’s Day Starbucks cup. On top of that you can send an Starbucks Card eGift through the app and schedule it to arrive on Valentine’s.

This limited campaign goes beyond Starbuck’s own app and integrates other social platforms including Twitter and Instagram. It all revolves around the cup itself so either way, Starbucks could see an increase in purchase during February 6 – 16 when the campaign is being run.

This is Starbucks latest offering as it further expands into mobile. Their first experiment with the Starbucks Cup Magic app came during the 2011 holiday season.  In 2011, Starbucks expanded its mobile payment program to more than 9,000 US locations and rolled out the ability to send Starbucks Card eGifts.

It is a small wonder Starbucks are continuing to push into the mobile and interactive space. Last year, there were 26 million mobile transactions with $110.5 million reloaded onto Starbucks Cards directly through the mobile app. There has also been increased adoption in the mobile space by Starbuck’s customers. Mobile transactions have doubled when comparing the first 9 weeks of January when they launched and a 9 week period only 9 months later. The first quarter of 2012 also saw an increase of 11% in the US over Q1 in 2011. This is primarily due to a 9% increase in comparable store sales. Though Starbucks haven’t detailed how much of that is due to mobile, it is easy to assume it is a contributing factor.

Of course, this type of campaign only works for those customers who notice they can interact with the cup itself. As this is still new territory for consumers in the US, it will take time for them to expect this interactivity with packaging. In any case, Starbucks is ahead of the game in the mobile retail space and will only gain to benefit when other retailers follow suit.