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Why Apple?s Passbook is a bigger must-have for marketers than ever

Many of the enhancements available in iOS 7 point to how Apple is addressing mobile wallets as enhancing the shopping experience with offers and in-store information rather than by enabling payments, where adoption has been slow.

With redemption rates typically higher for mobile coupons that their print counterparts, the newly updated Passbook will give marketers a way to easily boost their overall couponing strategies by making it easy to add print coupons to Passbook and share the savings with friends. Other marketer-friendly updates in iOS 7 to include automatic updates for applications and the new iBeacon service that could enhance in-store shopping.

?Passbook continues to have incredible potential for marketers,? said J Schwan, CEO of Solstice Mobile, Chicago. ?It is laying the groundwork for mobile wallet on iOS devices with the expected capability at some point of mobile payments integration. 

?We are expecting an increase in adoption based on that multichannel approach that it is now allowing for,? he said. ?Because previously adding a pass to your Passbook wasn?t necessarily intuitive, it would require you in most cases to already have that app on your phone and know where the feature was in that app to be able to add a particular pass to your Passbook.?

Bridging print, digital
Passbook was first introduced last year as a way for users to conveniently store digital coupons, tickets and other electronic offers in one easily accessed location.

Many see Passbook as a way for Apple to lay the groundwork on mobile payments although no timeframe for such an introduction is public.

However, in the mean time, Apple continues to make enhancements that improve the user experience and enhance opportunities for marketers.

While marketers in the airlines, hospitality and event ticketing industries quickly latched onto Passbook, many other marketers have been slow to jump at the opportunity.

This could change with the release tomorrow of Apple?s latest update to its iOS mobile operating system.
One of the big new enhancements is the ability for users to scan a QR code from print to automatically add a pass to Passbook.

This means coupons that appear in Sunday newspapers and elsewhere can be easily made Passbook-ready by adding a QR code. 

Driving adoption
By simplifying the process for adding a pass to Passbook, Apple is likely to drive user adoption.

?We are seeing mobile coupon redemption rates are much higher than paper coupon redemptions,? Mr. Schwan said. ?Mobile coupon redemption rates are hovering around 10 percent where paper is traditionally around 1 percent

?With the ability now to scan the physical world to add these passes and to share them, we are thinking that adoption levels could increase and marketers will start looking at it as a more viable option,? he said. ?This really offers a unique opportunity for marketers to readily convert many of the paper based coupons into a mobile format that is always with the user.

?It is not difficult to light one of these up. At this point, enough figures show it is a worthwhile endeavor.?

By making their print offers easily transferrable to Passbook, marketers can take advantage of some of the app?s other unique features such as the ability to trigger events based on a user?s location.

This means that when users move closer to the location of a retailer whose offer is in their Passbook app, the app will automatically send them a notification reminding them that the pass is available, thereby increasing the chance of conversion.

Easy sharing
One of the benefits for merchants of the Passbook app is that it does not require them to have a RFID reader or a reader with NFC support to scan offers from the app. They can use whatever bar code scanning hardware they already have.

Another important update to iOS 7 for marketers is the ability of Passbook users to easily share offers using the new AirDrop feature.

AirDrop enables users to quickly share photos, videos and other information with any other iOS 7 user from inside any app that has a Share button. The transfer is completed using Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

The idea is similar to the way Samsung users can bump two phones together to share information.
With AirDrop support enabled for Passbook, users will be able to AirDrop a coupon to a friend?s Passbook app.

?What AirDrop allows you to do is see others around you that have AirDrop enabled and choose to send them information from within the app,? Mr. Schwan said.

?The sharing capability is now much more greatly increased whereas before, it was essentially non-existent,? he said.

Another opportunity with iOS 7 is the fact that users? apps will now automatically update. This means marketers can continuously iterate apps and be assured that users have the most update version of their app.

Location awareness
IBeacon is another enhancement that becomes available with iOS 7 and could support marketers? efforts by enabling them to use Bluetooth to create a beacon around a specific area such as a store to communicate with app users once they enter the area. For example, marketers could send users of their apps coupons or information about in-store events. 

?IBeacons have the potential to revolutionize location awareness at the micro-level,? said John Haro, chief technology officer at Vibes, Chicago.

?With iOS7, Passbook adds iBeacon support to the way it handles location awareness and this opens up some interesting opportunities for consumers and marketers,? he said.

The iOS 7 interface has also been revamped with different icons and more minimalist design.
Savvy marketers will be able to take advantage of these changes to better leverage their apps for brand-building. 

?There is more screen to work with,? said Carl Howe, vice president of research and data sciences at Yankee Group, Boston. ?There is less clutter in the interface.

?You have the opportunity to bring your brand front and center so it can take up more of the screen,? he said.

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York