Five Things Marketers Should Know About Apple Passbook

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock during the last couple months, you know that Apple announced the new iPhone 5 back on September 12, 2012. On this date, Apple also rolled out its latest mobile operating system, iOS 6, which came chock full of new features like enhanced Siri, new 3D maps and deeper integration with social networks Twitter and Facebook.

Arguably, the most important new feature to arrive on iOS 6 was something called Passbook, which allows marketers to provide coupons, tickets, loyalty cards and more, all in one place on the iPhone or iPad.

Apple Passbook

For anyone that is interested in a deeper dive, the Passbook Developer kit is a great resource. Assuming that the rest of you are like me and just want the Readers Digest version for marketers, here is the good stuff:

1) The real power behind Passbook, and the most important reason any marketer should consider it, is that for iPhone and iPad users who have upgraded to iOS 6, it is the killer location-based app.

What I mean by that is that if you can encourage a customer to accept a coupon, ticket, loyalty card or pass from you a single time, you have ongoing permission to communicate with them/provide value as long as they have that item in their Passbook.

2) Because Passbook comes pre-loaded on iOS 6 (on the homescreen, to boot), it is impossible not to see. It’s also impossible to delete the app.

And while you can delete items from your Passbook, the user has to flip the item over and then find the delete button in the top left corner. It’s one of the few times that a non-intuitive user interface is helpful to the marketer.

3) While the Passbook functionality integrates nicely with mobile apps, thanks to an easy-to-use API (download the American Airlines, Target or Eventbrite apps for examples), the benefit here is that you can also deliver passes via e-mail or the Web, ensuring that almost anybody can use Passbook.

Speaking of anybody using Passbook, there are several sites that allow one to build their own Passbook functionality — DIY sites like Passdock, and Tello’s PassTools.

4) As mentioned in bullet one, tapping into the location-aware capabilities of Passbook is one of the more powerful aspects of the app. This allows marketers to message customers when they are in store or near a particular location.

Unlike foursquare and other location-based services (LBS), the customer only needs to activate an item once in Passbook to allow for ongoing messaging. Passbook is also date-aware, so it can be triggered on holidays/certain days of the week, as appropriate.

5) And finally, an ability to customize the items within Passbook to include messaging, barcodes, QR codes and other scannable formats allows for the proper connectivity of Passbook with most point of sale (POS) systems.

While Apple Passbook is good now, I can only imagine that it will get better in time. Over the next few months, I will keep readers of Marketing Land updated on the latest and greatest functionality.

Have you seen any great uses of Passbook? If so, please include links in the comments.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Local | Foursquare | Google: Maps | Google: Mobile | Mobile Marketing | Mobile Marketing Column | Yelp


About The Author: is Managing Director at W2O Group, where he co-leads marketing and is the head of the newly formed Social Commerce practice. Aaron assists clients with mobile and location-based marketing campaigns and strategy. He is also the co-author of Location-Based Marketing for Dummies (wiley) and an avid blogger, podcaster and speaker. Earlier in his career Aaron spent time as head of marketing and social media at Mzinga and Powered/Dachis Group. Before heading off into the startup/agency world, Aaron worked at Fidelity Investments for 9 years in a variety of digital marketing roles.

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  • Pat Grady

    Is it also a password manager?

  • aaronstrout

    Pat – not to my knowledge.

  • LHPP

    Another great place to get and write passes is !

  • aaronstrout

    Thanks LHPP — my list was definitely NOT comprehensive so I appreciate you (and anyone else) sharing good resources.

  • Daleyaj

    Thanks Aaron – I like the promise of Passbook, however, the way Apple rolled it out and explained it seems very poor. I’ve downloaded the sample apps such as Target, AA, etc. but it just seems like it downloads those as separate apps. How does information from those apps get into passbook?

  • Mike Langford

    Great analysis Aaron! I agree and would that Passbook’s use of a simple bar code is the killer delivery mechanism. When the iPhone 5 was released many Android fans bemoaned its lack of NFC (near field communication) but the reality on the ground is that almost every retailer and gate in the modern world is equipped with a bar coder reader to process coupons and tickets. Working with this existing infrastructure is a winner.

  • PJ Verh0ef

    Although I welcome the interest of Apple in the “mobile wallet” space, as it stimulates general awareness of the tech category with “the normal people”, it remains to be seen whether it is going to beat competitors in this space. I thought the same of Friend Finder at the time, but the implementation is so weak that it pales I comparison to e.g. Foursquare. For example, trying to find friends that use the app is prohibitively difficult in a very oxymoronic twist.

    It would be interesting to see the MAU stats on that app as it could say something about Passbooks chances. Unlike with the “check-in city guides” apps however, Apple has to compete with .dozens. of agile companies that are innovating in this space. Google’s wallet looks more mature, but I’d worry more about Paypal, or acquire eBay ;-)

  • aaronstrout


  • aaronstrout

    Mike – agree. And thanks!


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