Passbook. It organizes. It reminds. It has retailers and other distributors of tickets or coupons really excited. Why? Let’s take a look:

Who has Passbook? 

Passbook is an application automatically installed onto any Apple device running or that upgrades to iOS 6 (and presumably all future Apple OS upgrades). That means, for starters, iPhones 3GS/4/4S/5, as well as (likely in the future) tablets, touches and other devices.

Passbook leaves out that folks still running earlier versions of iOS, in addition to owners of all other device types such as Blackberry, Windows or Android. To ballpark, let’s use the cell phone market: ~50% with smartphones, ~40% with Apple smartphones, ~50% with iOS6 installed, i.e. Passbook reaches ~10% of all the cell phones currently in use today.

That seems like a small market? 

Well, it’s not so much the market that’s important, as the strategy itself.

First of all, that group of smartphone + Apple + iOS 6 users represents a solid target demographic of affluent, well-educated consumers. Perfect breeding ground for smartphone retail innovation.

But Passbook is just the beginning. I’d bet zillions of dollars that Android (owned by Google) will release a similar feature under the Google Wallet umbrella of products. Windows will certainly get involved, especially considering the investment made into Microsoft Tag. The marketplace for Passbook-type applications is about to explode.

Well what do these applications do? 

At their most basic level, applications like Passbook store and organize coupons, tickets and other consumer assets, which used to be kept on printed or clipped pieces of paper. The obvious advantage being that consumers have their phones with them at all times and can easily access all of these important documents at the tap of a finger.

Is that it? 

Well, no. Passbook allows creators of tickets and coupons to trigger location-based alerts via push notifications, customize the look and feel of of the Passbook documents and (you probably saw this coming) collect data and insights around passbook transactions. Below’s an example of a Passbook document we created here at Waterfall to give you an idea of the customization and functionality options available:

What would be a specific use case? 

A retailer issues a coupon to its customer base with an expiration date one week in the future. As customers pass by the retailer’s store, they receive a push notification reminding them about the coupon and that items they like are available for purchase. Consumers enter the retail outlet, select their desired items and check out by scanning their passbook coupon at the register. The retailer collects data about what the consumers purchased, when they redeemed their coupon and how long it took to get from download to transaction.

How can retailers distribute Passbook documents? 

Well, simplest way would be to use SMS. SMS subscribers simply receive a message inviting iOS 6 users to tap/click a link. After tapping/clicking, consumer instantly downloads and saves the Passbook coupon or ticket to his or her phone. Other smartphone OS users can download from a website or in text format. Passbook can also work with email, though it’s more difficult to target based on phone type.

Wow that sounds cool!

Glad to hear it. Let my colleagues know if you want more information today.

How will this affect mobile marketing? 

As I mentioned, look for these consumer wallet-type applications to explode. Once other operating systems like Android and Windows release their versions, a lot of retailers and other merchants will start lining up to develop a Passbook/Wallet strategy.

That said, remember that Passbook is just another channel in the digital stratosphere. What’s most important for success is understanding the data around Passbook transactions. Those companies that just focus on getting documents into Passbook without understanding the underlying transaction data will be far behind the curve.

As a channel offering, Passbook is also a perfect example of why companies need a mobile strategy based on an opted-in database yesterday. Companies without a mobile strategy looking to launch Passbook? Good luck trying to coordinate building a list, understanding targeting based on Phone OS, tracking POS with coupons, etc. etc. etc. Those companies with a mobile strategy already in place? Passbook is just another channel in a long line to further personally engage consumers.

Want to learn more about creating mobile marketing your customers love? Check out a quick demo of Waterfall’s platform.

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