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Delay in Passbook adoption hurts retailers in long-run

It has been almost a year since Apple’s initial launch of Passbook and only a few retailers have leveraged the technology to further their mobile commerce initiatives. There is no doubt loyalty will be a big influencer in mobile payment growth. However, by not harnessing Passbook, retailers are missing a big opportunity.

When Apple’s Passbook first launched onto the mobile scene, it received mixed reactions from marketers and retailers. However, now is the time to take risks in mobile and marketers need to try out different forms of technology to see what works and what does not.

“For a long time, there was confusion around Passbook and its capabilities,” said Chris Mason, co-founder/CEO of Branding Brand, Pittsburgh, PA.

“For example, some retailers thought they had to first have an app,” he said. “There were also challenges around education – for retailers as well as customers.

“From a consumer side, there is a lot of demand. In iTunes, it’s common to see users requesting Passbook integrations in the comments section of a retailer’s app.”

Ongoing challenges
According to Mr. Mason, enablement is still a challenge for many retailers, especially those with limited resources.

Furthermore, Apple’s Passbook is still rather new for many marketers. And, many are still weary of implementing the technology into their initiatives.

Nevertheless, retailers need to stop looking at competition or what others are doing and try out Passbook for themselves.

Apple’s Passbook is a great way to drive loyalty and build an ongoing relationship between the brand and the customers.

Many companies have seen success with Passbook.

Take Sephora, who announced that 87,000 Beauty Insider cards were added to Passbook a week after launch (see story).

“When retailers like Sephora take the time to properly tailor Passbook experiences to their audience, and educate them on use, they reap clear, trackable benefits,” Mr. Mason said.

“Passbook has the ability to create convenient experiences that bridge the gap between online and offline worlds,” he said.

“In addition to a focus on mobile wallets, there is also new attention on the larger ‘bag’ or ‘purse’ of customer information. Everyone likes to talk about responsive design, but the end of the day, it’s about responsive data. How can we collect and configure information in unique, contextually-relevant ways?”

Where it’s heading
According to Jeff Hasen, a Seattle-based mobile marketing consultant, despite a flood of hype, the mobile wallet is in its earliest days.

“Apple has done relatively little consumer marketing,” Mr. Hasen said. “Awareness instead has come from Starbucks and others.

“It’s way short of a game-changer,” he said. “Mass adoption will take time and, of course, with the number of Android and other non-Apple devices in consumer hands, Passport won’t be the end-all solution. But it will likely matter more in the months and years ahead.”

Some industry experts believe that Passbook adoption has not slowed down.

“Urban Airship is not seeing stalled adoption for Apple Passbook at all,” said Brent Hieggelke, chief marketing officer of Urban Airship. “We continue to have more and more discussions with brands in various stages of planning and rolling out Passbook programs.

“In fact, we just went live with Passbook support for Alaska Airlines, and they saw several thousand boarding passes added to Passbook in the first few days despite requiring an app update for Passbook support,” he said.

In addition, as more mobile operating systems support similar Passbook-like functionality, more and more consumers will be aware of the convenience and value these solutions offer.”

Final Take
Rimma Kats is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York