I watched Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference last week in anticipation of the unveiling of the new iPhone with NFC. I was sorely disappointed but in no way surprised when said device failed to appear, but watched on to see what iOS 6 had to offer later this year. iOS if you didn’t know already, is the underlying operating system which all iPhone’s and iPad’s run, so any new features are eagerly dissected by the blogging community ready to second-guess Apple’s strategy.
Out of the 200+ new features coming in iOS 6 one stood out to me, that being Passbook their new Mobile wallet. The App digitally stores loyalty cards, gift cards, boarding passes, movie tickets and coupons directly on the phone. With the details saved within Passbook users can present their phone at the till to take advantage of special offers.
For example Starbucks loyalty card holders can be prompted with an offer whenever they walk near a store, once inside they can use their stored card to pay for a coffee via a QR code. The Starbucks loyalty scheme has long existed before, so Apple isn’t necessarily providing an end-to-end solution for merchants with new point-of-sales equipment or NFC readers. Instead they’re providing an elegant solution to aggregate all these cards under a unified banner for the user while using what infrastructure the merchant has already at the point-of-sale.
Loyalty Apps and e-wallet solutions have existed for a while but they’ve always felt like isolated silos with the user needing to use individual Apps for specific merchants and stores. Apple’s solution pulls these together into a central App with tight ties to the operating system of the phone.
And it’s with these habits that Apple will unlock the true value for Passbook on its iOS ecosystem. This will undoubtedly flow on through to the Mobile advertisers, campaign managers, high-street retailers, and of course the end-user. By leveraging functionality such as location Apple can help advertisers target campaigns to individual users and purchases.
After all commerce is not just about payments. Instead there is a long tail of actions and decisions starting from the initial offering or advertisement leading to the purchase, and not forgetting aftercare. By inserting Passbook in the center of this, Apple can help businesses reward loyal customers while inching consumers to the inevitable holy-grail of Mobile payments.