About this time last year, Apple somewhat quietly launched Passbook, a built-in iOS app that provided a convenient way for iPhone owners to collect and store everything from coupons to event tickets to airline boarding passes . Consumer adoption was very strong. In fact, only a few weeks after Passbook launched, 12% of MLB playoff tickets were redeemed with Passbook. This spawned a number of companies who focus on Passbook platforms.
In addition, some marketers were disappointed that Apple did not include NFC in the iPhone 5 last year, as this continued to hamper adoption of the technology. However, rather than hamper NFC, Apple and Google perhaps delivered the death blows this month when Apple's latest generation of phones did not have NFC, followed by Google detaching NFC from their Wallet technology.
While those who bet on NFC may be disappointed, this is a a huge advantage for marketers and shoppers, as we will see a consistent delivery method for coupons, loyalty cards, tickets and even mobile payments. Combine that with forward-thinking companies like Vibes Media rapidly evolving their Mobile Wallet platform into Digital Wallet Managers, and shoppers will see an almost immediate benefit in managing their mobile shopping experience. Mobile wallets will be even more valuable than the traditional coupon holders, because more than just storing pieces of paper, Passbook and Google Wallet will remind you to use those coupons and loyalty cards when you are in close proximity to a retail location.
There is one more thing that Apple quietly introduced at their developer conference this summer that will soon have a dynamic impact on shoppers: iBeacons. iBeacons allow app developers to easily take advantage of an emerging corner of the Internet of Things. Apple calls these iBeacons, but several companies are making these tiny devices that work via Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). This is available in all newer smartphones, so there’s no waiting on manufacturers to add an NFC radio.
Current uses of this allow for detailed in-store mapping, but now developers can build this into existing apps. For example, if you have a new product that is buried in a sea of competition, a device attached to a shelf talker (yes, they are that small) can send a message to an app when the shopper is close to your product. Or imagine some day soon, when your mobile shopping list tells shoppers when they are close to an item on the list.
If you think this is pie-in-the-sky futurist talk, think again. Apple sold 9 million iPhones in their first 3 days on sale (that's almost 3% of the US population for reference). And their previous generation phones, as well as many Android devices, already support BLE. Your shoppers are already waiting for you to create this.
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