Google Wallet & Apple Passbook: A Brand’s Next Best Friends

Recently, the industry has seen a considerable amount of buzz surrounding mobile wallet applications such as Google Wallet and Apple’s Passbook. Defined as an effective mobile solution for providing customer loyalty rewards and savings, there’s no question as to why these apps are becoming more popular.

Even though consumers have expressed a desire for mobile offers, some brands and retailers have been slow on the uptake.

This column explores the loyalty and rewards features of each platform, their benefits and how they can be used to create a truly revolutionary customer experience when used as part of an integrated mobile campaign.

Google Wallet Offer

Why Use Wallet Apps?

Google Wallet and Passbook present a win-win situation for brands and their customers. Both provide benefits to customers such as ease of use and convenience, as they will no longer be burdened with remembering to clip and redeem coupons at the point of sale.

In addition, they will always have their coupons and loyalty cards on hand and ready to use with helpful reminders of expiration dates. The mobile wallet features are also beneficial to marketers as they allow for the ability to do the following:

  • Combine mobile loyalty services with mobile coupons
  • Create mobile opt-in lists
  • Easily track and measure redemption
  • Leverage location-based offers

There are 159.8 million smartphone owners in the US, and 91% of adults keep their phone within arm’s reach. As you might imagine, having a mobile coupon on hand 24/7 yields a higher redemption rate than other types of coupons. In fact, a BI Intelligence report revealed that the industry average of mobile coupon redemption is ten times higher than static and web coupons — this translates to huge potential for your brand.

How Do Wallet Apps Work?

passbook-heroWhether from another app, SMS, MMS or web browser, brands simply need to provide a customized link that enables their offer or loyalty card to be instantly downloaded into the Google Wallet or Passbook apps once a user has clicked on it. Then, let the savings begin!

Both are easy for brands to use and do not require an overly-complicated technical setup. With these apps, brands have an opportunity to leverage customer profile data, gaining insights and generating personalized offers.

The following table compares both apps’ capabilities:


Apple’s Passbook

Google Wallet

App availability

Native app for iOS 6 and later devices only. Non-native app available for download to any Android device running Android 2.3 or later, as well as iPhones iOS 6 and later, via Google Play.


Created for iOS device users to make mobile payments, save digital coupons, tickets, loyalty cards and other offers in one convenient location. First introduced as mobile payment system, but now supports loyalty cards and other offers.


Because it is a native app for iPhone users, it’s the 4th most popular commerce app (Business Insider, 2013). Generally, consumers and brands have been slower on the adoption of non-native apps. It has been downloaded from Google Play less than 10 million times in last two years.

Location-based notifications

Operates through location services settings on the iPhone via GPS. While services are enabled, users can receive notifications from retailers, whose offers they have saved in their Passbook. Currently, each Passbook offer can store up to ten different locations. Like Passbook, it is also enabled through the device’s GPS location services settings. Only with the Google Wallet are consumers able to store an unlimited amount of locations per offer.

Though both apps have location-based messaging features, Passbook currently has quite an edge over Google Wallet. With the latest iOS 7 release, retailers can now send more targeted Passbook offers to specific locations within a store via iBeacon (Bluetooth Low Energy Technology).

Let’s say that Sam’s favorite sports store is having a 25% off sale on golf clubs. Instead of sending a bevy of storewide coupons when he’s entering the store, Sam will receive the coupon as he peruses through the golf section of the store.

This is all made possible with the ability of the iOS 7 Passbook to work with iBeacons. If a retailer installs the beacon hub software within a store, smaller beacons would be placed throughout the store in different departments. The smaller beacons then transmit signals that can be received by enabled iPhone devices so customers will get relevant offers as they are browsing that department. At present, iBeacons can only work with Passbook.

Users must have a particular offer already saved in their Passbook in order to receive the location-specific notifications. Though Google Wallet currently does not offer the same Bluetooth capabilities as Passbook, Google is working to integrate other apps into Wallet such as Maps and Google+.

What Are The Best Strategies To Use With Wallet Apps?

google-walletWhile Passbook and Google Wallet are useful solutions for brands, to make them more effective, they should be included as an integral part of a high-level mobile strategy.

For example, mobile messaging has proven to be an effective tool for reaching customers with a 98% message open rate — so, why not fortify the mobile wallet strategy with messaging?

However, delivering SMS/MMS messages with clickable links to download store offers and rewards into the apps can lead to lower redemptions (one extra click) and reduced customer engagement for a retailer’s campaign.

This challenge can be avoided with the latest messaging platforms, such as Rich Media Messaging (RMM). RMM is an innovative technology that allows brands to deliver fully-optimized, end-user mobile experiences utilizing actual mobile phone technical capabilities via Intelligent Handset Detection (IHD).

With the RMM messaging platform, engaging and fully-optimized pictures, videos, binary content (such and Passbook offers) and long texts can be delivered to virtually any device that can properly handle the content.

Oftentimes, we see brands that are eager to deliver mobile wallet offers to customers via SMS when they are completely unaware of the type of devices their customers have and whether those devices can actually download the offer itself.

add-to-passbookFor example, sending an SMS with a Passbook offer to a Windows-based phone will degrade the brand’s reputation in the eyes of the customer. You can only imagine how extremely frustrated your customer will be when he or she is sent a Passbook offer for their favorite shoe retailer, but cannot store it on their mobile device or redeem it.

Unlike SMS, RMM’s IHD feature, allows marketers to identify the device type and its capabilities before delivering any mobile content. IHD eliminates customer frustration by only delivering the right content to the right mobile phone.

In addition to messaging, social sharing is also a great way to support your mobile wallet efforts. Including a call-to-action for a mobile wallet offer with the retailer’s social media messaging can help to expand their reach, as we all love to share content.

Sharing offers via social media can also help brands to garner more engagement with their audiences that will help to build more long-term relationships for additional offers in the future.

Along with mobile messaging and social media, traditional avenues should also be leveraged to promote mobile wallet offers and drive customers back to mobile devices. This includes: website; in-store signage, advertisements, email blasts and other brand communications.

It’s also key to remember that mobile messaging is a natural behavior for mobile consumers, and it is much easier to initiate a conversation via messaging than any other mobile touch point.

The Bottom Line

If used properly, Google Wallet and Passbook are effective solutions for brands, especially when it comes to driving engagement with customers. As these apps deliver a variety of loyalty rewards, coupons and other offers, they fulfill the rising mobile demands from consumers, which include location-based communications from brands while shopping.

While Passbook and Google Wallet can add value to a mobile campaign, it’s recommended that these efforts be integrated with all other touchpoints and aligned with the consumer’s mobile behavior.

With more features being integrated into Passbook and Google wallet, and more customers adopting the technology, it is only a matter of time before your brand should consider these mobile apps as part of the mobile tool kit.

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

Related Topics: Apple | Channel: Mobile Marketing | Google: Wallet | Mobile Marketing | Mobile Marketing Column


About The Author: is the President, CEO and Co-Founder of Iris Mobile. Widely recognized as one of foremost mobile technologist and visionary experts on MMS and rich media messaging, Cezar is actively participating in defining the next generation mobile marketing and advertising.

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  • Pamela

    How much does it cost a store owner to put Beacons within their store?
    You say they need 1 in each dpt?
    Or just one for their store?


  • Nancy

    The cost of a beacon ranges from $25-$30 USD per beacon. Now, a store can have multiple beacons in different sections – i.e. store front, cashier. It really is up to the business and where they want their customers to get information via a beacon. I’ve purchased GemTot Beacons and they’ve worked really well for me!

  • Pamela

    Does the store owner have the ability to customize the app.
    Meaning- if they have custom made products would the store owner be able to input the information and give deductions?

  • Pamela

    Thank you Nancy.
    My next question is also posted, but will ask again.
    Do you know if the app can be customized?
    For example, if the store owner makes custom items,can an app be added to run specials on these?
    Or does each special have to be tied into a specific brand and run according to their specials,and with their skews etc.?

  • Kelly Passey

    Depending on volume, Series 10 beacons are available for as little as $5
    each and Series 20 beacons are available for as little as $10 each.

  • Kelly Passey

    Qualcomm Gimbal released that pricing last December.

  • Mark Tack

    Thanks for the insightful article, Cezar. I totally agree! Since Passbook was launched back in September 2012, we have run hundreds of mobile wallet campaigns for our customers who were looking for new ways to expand their mobile toolboxes. What we have found is that both Google Wallet and Apple’s Passbook are great ways to help brands provide customers with rich, personalized experiences that lead to – and build – loyalty. And consumers – especially smartphone users – see the benefits ( of storing mobile-wallet content. As you know, this is a big win.

    The most important factor for brands to consider is ensuring a comprehensive strategy. At the heart ( of any mobile-wallet strategy, retailers must determine the best use cases and objectives for using mobile wallets, promoting the content through multiple marketing channels, leveraging creative designs and location-based triggers, and continuously testing and measuring programs to ensure success. The opportunities mobile wallets provide are endless, and, like you, I’m excited to see where the space is heading. – Mark Tack, vice president of Marketing, Vibes

  • Nancy

    Yes, the app can be customized. Apps can be programmed to trigger a coupon or more information on the product – all within the app landscape.

  • drewgiovannoli

    Great article Cezar, there really is incredible potential for the wallet platforms as the network of iBeacons explode and customer adoption increases. At SXSW in Austin this past March, 30 locations and businesses showcased products and services to visitors of the city using Apple Passbook and Google Wallet. Each featured store or spot was geotagged so that as people walked around the city, they would be alerted of nearby promotions. For the best offers, businesses saw 15-25% conversion from viewed coupons to download mobile coupons. Many of these promotions are still running and can be seen at

    One of the things we learned was that attracting customers to your mobile promotions is no different than attracting customers to print or media ads. First, you have to make sure to create an attractive offering. This seems obvious, but in our SXSW promotion, stores that did buy one get one promotions had nearly twice the amount of coupon downloads. Another helpful learning was that social ads allowed businesses to target their customer demographics age, gender, and interests. Fosbury’s mobile wallet promotions detect your device so one ad can be distributed to the right people, no matter what phone.

    I highly recommend trying out mobile wallets, whether on your next flight, at Starbucks, or when visiting Austin. To download an iBeacon white paper or watch our recorded mobile wallet webinars, visit

    Drew Giovannoli, Marketing and Operations manager at Fosbury

  • Tim tim

    I am late to this duscussion and i won’t plug my own mobile wallet company like some people .. I think almost in secret passbook and google wallet are being utilized by some very savvy marketing folks like sephora . And you hit the nail on the head its not the technology or platform its how well loyal customers respond to it .

  • Tim tim

    In only 3 months its only Gimbal NOT Qualcomm Gimbal …

  • Tim tim

    Aren’t you just reselling hardware you buy from china ??

  • drewgiovannoli

    Hi Tim Tim,

    1. We don’t sell any hardware. We focus 100% on software and our mobile wallet product and iBeacon app SDK work with almost any iBeacons.

    2. I think there is value in knowledgable parties like Mark at Vibes or myself at Fosbury sharing case studies and best practices from what we’ve learned, but we appreciate your thoughts and feedback.


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