How SMBs Can Take Advantage of Apple’s Passbook | Street Fight

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How SMBs Can Take Advantage of Apple’s Passbook

8 Comments 04 December 2012 by

It’s no secret that mobile is already playing an important role in retail sales this holiday season. As consumers brave lines and crowds, their mobile phones go with them. Last week IBM reported a 63% growth in mobile sales for Black Friday 2012 year versus a year ago.

Those toting around iPhones running iOS6 can now enjoy a sweet new addition to their local shopping arsenal. Apple’s most recent app innovation, Passbook, lets users aggregate coupons, gift card information, special offers, and purchased deals in one convenient location. These digitized versions of store loyalty cards, coupons, and even boarding passes work exactly the same as the print versions schlepped around in overstuffed wallets. Passbook allows mobile users to start to eliminate the wallet-cloggers and instead keep such items inside their mobile device for easy recall. The app’s promise to drive retail business is so strong that more than 40 major brands and retailers, including Macy’s, Barnes & Noble, LivingSocial, Fandango, and Starbucks, have launched or integrated their app with Passbook.  It’s obvious Apple has struck a chord with national retailers, but how can local businesses use this new marketing tool?

Most local businesses don’t have the resources (or frankly the need) to create a mobile application, let alone one that can be integrated with Passbook. To reach local audiences already engaging with Apple’s latest invention, SMBs can, however, take advantage of a viable mobile alternative, through the use of linked Passbook “passes” (coupons or vouchers) on their site. A number of businesses like PassKit or PassSource are offering a variety of tools granting marketers and small business owners a way to design and launch individual passes for Passbook for any promotion.

PassSource, though still in beta, has both personal and professional accounts available for $89 or $899 a year, respectively. The basic personal account lets users create passes from templates with custom colors and images; these are then tracked and easily updated when necessary through push notifications. The professional account upgrade enables businesses to white-label Pass Source passes, as well as create links to passes for inclusion in marketing distributions. The creation process is simple and easy, and a basic coupon pass would look something like the one on the right.

PassKit lets users create and manage as many as 10 active passes at a given time; it offers a number of upgrade plans for personal accounts, SMBs, developers and larger businesses that range in price from $9.99 to $99.99 a month — as well as a customized enterprise relationship. While Passk.it is providing its services free for 30 days, the clunky and unclear pass creator tool could deter even savvy local business owners in one visit.

Though the technology surrounding Passbook needs to develop alongside its user base, there is obvious potential here. Whether the goal is offering a deal for a romantic dinner or a baker’s dozen, small businesses can leverage these and other pass creators so they can integrate Passbook passes with their marketing mix via email communications, tweets, and mobile websites. This can help local businesses remain top of mind this season with their increasingly mobile local clientele.

For local businesses still comfortable with more traditional marketing methods, the emergence of Passbook has inspired one of the oldest forms of marketing to become integrated with mobile. Direct-mail coupon veteran Valpak now offers Passbook-compatible coupons via its mobile application. One simply lets the application pinpoint one’s location or enters it manually to reveal all available local offers. The user taps the “share” icon at the bottom left corner of each mobile coupon and then chooses “Add to Passbook.” Each pass is stored within the application and can be redeemed on site. Small business support can’t get more locally optimized than that!

As mobile participation becomes an increasingly essential ingredient for the continued success of local boutiques, restaurants, plumbers, pest control firms, and the like, Passbook offers SMBs a way to get the whole town involved and engaged. Though mobile user activity with Passbook has been slow to start, by next year we may very well see Black Friday ads in the form of apps and “passes” as part of an ever changing lineup of marketing that drives local holiday shopping.

Annisa Farese is the marketing and communications manager for xAd Inc., which leverages local search data to drive performance in search and display campaigns for clients that range from local SMBs to global brands. To learn more about xAd, visit www.xAd.com or follow it on Twitter at @xAdInc.

  • http://www.flonsolutions.com/ Andrew Phillips

    If you’re an SMB, Passbook is an interesting, innovative new option for marketing promotions. It enables one-to-one consumer engagement and you can easily measure the effectiveness of marketing promotions.

    However, like building a company website or launching a Facebook marketing campaign, it is often best to engage expert services to get the best results – you need to start with clear objectives and carefully build a Passbook promotion around these.

    Various Passbook tools have recently become available – they allow you to create your own Passes. But they don’t help you figure out what type of Passbook promotion is best for your business, or your target customer segment. You still need to distribute your Passes effectively, have your staff set-up to scan customer Passes, have a central server that manages everything – and then analyze the customer data to optimize any future campaigns.

    Check out Flon Solutions for complete Passbook systems!

  • Andrew Phillips

    Passbook is an interesting, innovative new option for SMBs. Passbook is already on nearly all iPhones – with users waiting impatiently for Passes. They don’t need to find, download and learn a new App – it’s already on their phone and in their pocket .. Passbook brings fantastic new features and it’s really easy to get great analytics about your customers ..

    However, like designing a company website or launching a Facebook marketing campaign, it’s not easy to use Passbook effectively – employing expert help goes a long way to getting results.

    Several options have recently become available allowing you to create your own Passes – but many SMBs are more interested in results than DIY. You still need to figure out how to effectively choose the right type of Passbook promotion for your business and customer segment. Then you need to distribute your Passes, set-up staff to be able to scan them, have a central server that manages everything and analyze the Pass usage metrics to make best use of your efforts.

    Contact Flon Solutions for complete, end-to-end Passbook systems ..

  • Elenor Wallice

    Clunky and unclear? Personally, I think PassKit has done a fantastic job of simplifying an incredibly complicated framework and I have found their support is second to none. Andrew is correct in that there is a learning curve to understanding how to get the most out of Passbook and Passkit have helped me immensely in this respect.

    It’s very unclear to me how a business could create your own coupon with Valpak – looks very much like affiliate marketing scraping offers from commission junction et. al.

    • Danielle B (Bay21 Bar)

      I tried Passsource but it just can’t do what I need it to with languages and I also found all my passes were bunched up ones from other companies.

      PassKit’s $29.99 plan was just what I need and have to agree that their support is amazing.

  • Yvonne

    I am the CMO for Uppal Hospitality Group and I must say that PassKit has been
    awesome. Yes it take a while (around an hour) to get used to the designer but
    it’s similar to learning how to use a mail app, or a facebook page. Once you’ve
    got it, it’s awesome. PassKit has been the only provider that allows me to
    design and distribute our Passes from one place. There’s no other provider that
    allows me to have multi language passes or that allows me to push updates from
    the screen. It may be a little more complicated at first than than the more
    simple solution but as an SMB we want to take advantage of the full capabilites
    of Passbook and having tried all providers, PassKit really is the only that
    allows that. I would absolutely recommend trying them out. Give it an hour.
    Create a template and then play with pushing updates. We are engaging more and
    more clients everyday through Passbook now and already seeing a revenue rise.
    Hope this helps everyone.

    Yvonne

  • http://PassKit.com/ PassKit

    Thanks for the article and the mention Annisa. You are absolutely right that for the majority of companies spending time and money developing an app and then fighting for screen real estate is simply a wasted exercise. The beauty with Passbook is it already in the device; now in over 200 million phones. Note that PassKit Passes work on ALL devices so depending on which market you serve you can easily connect with well over 40% of your customers already (and of course that’s growing all the time).

    I would also like to point out that our tens of thousands of users, and growing exponentially, have reported the PassKit Pass Designer to be easy and quick to use. We purposely did not want to just give a very basic screen with limited functionality and a lock down template. We wanted to ensure that our online WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) designer allowed any business to access ALL features available in Passbook. Including full control over every single piece of content, multi language, full location alert support, multiple distribution methods etc… The Pass Designer is designed so it grows with your needs and as your marketing campaigns becoming more sophisticated.

    The CMO’s and Business Owners using our Pass Designer state that within less than 1 hour of familiarisation they, or their staff, are creating beautiful and highly engaging Pass Templates in 5-10 minutes.

    They can then distribute via any means. We even have an SMS route that some of our clients are finding a great way to distribute.

    Combined with detailed analytics, free trial and tiered pricing it’s really a no brainer for any business to give it a go. Many of our clients initially start off with a small business account and soon realise the power (and payback) of having their brand in the palm of their clients and prospects hands.

    The smartphone growth is obviously here to stay but getting into the Passbook now has real benefit. 1. Because consumers are ‘gagging’ for Passes and 2. the sooner you use it the sooner you get to grips with what can be done and how you can easily engage your customers and deliver a very cool / value add experience for them. We continue to share many these case studies in our community forums.

    Hope this helps and we are delighted to assist any SMB into Passbook and ensure they get the maximum benefit (for their customers and their P&L)

  • Eunice Leung

    I am the Marketing Director for Staunton’s Group and I must say Passbook is fantastic. We have just implemented and already seeing an incredible response with new customers turning up everyday. I must also add that PassKit is far from clunky and unclear. Not only is the self service Pass Designer tool amazing their support team have been incredible. It took me around an hour to get used to the designer but no different to learning how to set up our Google Places page, or Facebook Page. PassKit has been the only provider that allows us to design and distribute our Passes from one place – and they are the only Passes that work in Android properly. I don’t need to engage expensive designer or technology staff – my team and I can do it from the comfort of our office.. or even at home. We can specify multiple language and we can even push updates from the screen. I was dubious about Passbook as Apple described it and sounded like a lot of code and investment but PassKit has made it quick and simple to deploy; not too mention incredibly affordable (much less than my normal marketing expense). And now we have started we are coming up with loads more customer engagement ideas – especially as PassKit share many mobile marketing best practices as part of their service. I give PassKit 10/10 and recommend any business trying them out (apart from my competitors ;-).
    It’s very engaging and exactly what our customers tell us. Best of luck, Eunice

  • Eunice Leung

    I am the Marketing Director for Stauntons Group
    and I must say Passbook is fantastic. We have just implemented and
    already seeing an incredible response with new customers turning up everyday.
    I must also add that PassKit is far from clunky and unclear. Not
    only is the self service Pass Designer tool amazing their support team have
    been incredible. It took me around an hour to get used to the designer but no
    different to learning how to set up our Google Places page, or Facebook Page.
    PassKit has been the only provider that allows us to design and distribute
    our Passes from one place – and they are the only Passes that work in Android
    properly. I don’t need to engage expensive designer or technology staff –
    my team and I can do it from the comfort of our office.. or even at home. We
    can specify multiple language and we can even push updates from the screen.
    I was dubious about Passbook as Apple described it and sounded like a lot
    of code and investment but PassKit has made it quick and simple to deploy; not
    too mention incredibly affordable (much less than my normal marketing expense).
    And now we have started we are coming up with loads more customer
    engagement ideas – especially as PassKit share many mobile marketing best
    practices as part of their service. I give PassKit 10/10 and recommend any
    business trying them out (apart from my competitors ;-). Design some
    passes, add them to your Passbook and try sending some push updates. It’s
    very engaging and exactly what our customers tell us. Best of luck, Eunice

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