The Evolution of Passbook - 9 Things To Expect From Passbook This Year

Like many, last year I predicted that Passbook would go mainstream in 2013. With 2014 here and Passbook not ubiquitous, I would argue that last year’s optimism was premature.

In 2013, momentum started to build. Retailers, such as Sephora, found Passbook customers purchase at 2X the volume with 2X the frequency. Business Insider reported Passbook to be the fourth-most popular commerce app one year after launch. Gartner remains bullish on mobile payments and Apple continues to invest in Passbook usability features.



For Passbook to reach its potential as a real-time, location-enabled, dynamic and imminently tracked mobile coupon, it needs to evolve in the following ways. I’ve listed them in order of most to least likely to happen in 2014.

1) Mobile Marketing’s Overall Penetration Opens the Door For Passbook

Passbook penetration trails mobile marketing’s, just as Grand Theft Auto could never have become a 2013 cultural phenomenon without readily available game consoles. Consider StrongView’s recent mobile marketing survey, which revealed that, although ~2% of companies plan on using Passbook before launching a mobile marketing program, ~9% plan to implement once they have one up and running. Now that companies have more mobile marketing experience, from SMS to mobile email, social, web and apps, Passbook will be close behind.

2) Marketers Continue To Deploy Passbook Campaigns With More Intelligence

Shout out to every customer that looked at a QR code quizzically, but I think marketers learned their lesson. In 2014, marketers will adhere to standard best practices (e.g. sending push notifications only at sensible times/frequencies, testing Passes to ensure functionality and including links on Passes’ backs to increase utility), as well as those more advanced (e.g. shopping cart experience and addressing security concerns).

3) Marketers Realize That Passbook Is The Geo-Fencing Answer

Passbook combines time, location and interactive options to create the ideal geo-fencing tool. Using Passes, brands can send engaging content at the precise time and location that’s most relevant for customers. Though marketers have touted geo-fencing this whole millennium, high costs have made deployment difficult. Passbook is the answer.

4) Passbook Early Adopters Will Announce Their Findings

We mentioned Sephora (a leader in mobile marketing prior to Passbook I might add), but Passbook has other notable corporate endorsements, including the MLB and Target. Once these companies demonstrate Passbook’s effectiveness one way or another, they will announce their findings.

5) Marketers Use Passbook To Attract A New Market Of Coupon Users

Traditionally, the stereotypical coupon clipper doesn’t look like a teenager or suit-clad male. Passbook has the power to change this caricature, as both these groups know and love their smartphones.  

6) Passbook Becomes Better Organized

Right now, Passbook stores all passes in cascade-like fashion. My prediction is that Passbook, as it stands now, is around “MVP” (minimum viable product) status. As adoption and mainstream user feedback increases, we’ll see updates to the Passbook UI so that it becomes usable by those folks who love, but feel slightly intimidated by, their iPhone’s advanced functionality.

7) Apple Provides Public Clarity On Its Passbook Strategy

Passbook seems to be an integral facet of the iOS strategy. However, lingering questions remain, such as why Passbook remains unavailable to iPad users when  iCloud has the ability to push Passes to all devices. Traditionally, Apple releases products and relies on the developer community for proliferation. Marketers need confirmation that Passbook won’t go away before they invest.

8) Passbook Becomes A Seamless User Experience

Passbook could be the savior for industries focused on flash deals. If Passbook can achieve the same usability, user retention and referral business, usage will increase dramatically.

9) Passbook Will Integrate With A Payments Platform

Linking with a payments platform would complete the Passbook loop, providing a theoretical and actual mobile wallet. Whether connectivity comes from an in-house solution like iBeacon, or third party service like Pay-Pal or Coin, Passbook’s max potential is replacing wallets all together.

My confidence level for 1-5 is ~80%, with a precipitous drop afterward. But it won’t matter. To paraphrase Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm, before technologies can achieve mainstream adoption, they must move beyond a novelty that appeals to early adopters and offer practical value recognizable to the pragmatic majority. Passbook has this value; it just needs to take few steps to get there. 

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