How To Use Apple’s PassBook in Your Marketing Strategy

When Apple launched iOS 6 this September, its PassBook app also went live. PassBook is Apple’s solution for mobile payments, coupons, loyalty cards, boarding passes and event tickets.

Unlike Google Wallet, PassBook doesn’t use Near Field Communications (short-range wireless transfers), which uses the phone to complete the payment portion of the transaction with payment information stored on the phone. Instead, the PassBook system works much more like a gift card, wherein the retailer must have some alternate payment system already in place. PassBook can create a barcode representation of that card and allow the user to carry it with them on their phone (instead of needing a physical card).

So, that’s what PassBook is. But your real question should be: “How will PassBook help me and my business?”

As mobile growth continues to explode, with over 640 million Android and iOS devices worldwide, finding ways to engage with your users on the device where they are most active will become increasingly important. PassBook can be a key part of that strategy.

One brand that is already using PassBook is StarBucks. They have offered mobile payments via iPhone for quite some time, but the system they used was custom and lacked any sort of official support. With PassBook, StarBucks has been able to implement a payment system that is both more powerful and more engaging for the end user.

How Starbucks Uses PassBook

You can even incorporate PassBook offers into your existing apps. If you have an app for your brand, you can easily fold in PassBook offers from directly inside your app. Although PassBook is an Apple product, because of the way that Passes have been set up, you can also use them on Android and Windows Phone (after installing a Pass reader, which only ships with the iPhone).

Here are a few ways that you can spice up your app with PassBook enhancements:

  • Location Based Coupons / Offers: When a user visits your store X amount of times or X amount of different locations, you can then present them with a special coupon or offer that can easily be stored in their PassBook for use later.
  • Action Based Coupons / Offers: When a user tweets, likes, or otherwise shares content from inside your app they can unlock special offers/coupons.
  • App Holder Only Events: Generate tickets for app holder-only events. This will encourage users to download and engage with your app and also reward them for being an engaged consumer.
  • Loyalty Cards: If you already have a loyalty card program, allow users to save this in their PassBook.
  • Gift Cards: PassBooks have the option to update information and keep a stored value so that your consumers know how much they have left to spend on their gift card. No more guessing about how much is left on that plastic card in their wallet.

But what if I don’t have an app? Can I still use PassBooks with my customers?

Yes. And that’s the great part about Apple’s implementation of PassBook. It’s all web-based, so you can send PassBooks from your website. If you don’t have an app, here are some ways that you can get a PassBook to your users:

  • QR Codes On Signage: We now see QR Codes everywhere, but QR Codes aren’t always done right. A QR Code that redirects to a page that generates a PassBook is a great way to give the user something that they actually care about while interacting with your QR Codes
  • SMS Messages: Since you can use any server-based link to generate a PassBook, you can send an SMS message to users with a link that would allow them to get your offers, coupons, and event passes.
  • Social Media Outlets: Reward your followers and friends with a link that will take them to a PassBook offer.

These are just a few ways to get started. How are you using PassBook?