Of all the new iOS features for the iPhone, Passbook is probably the most unique and different. It’s something Apple has not touched before: digitized passes in an e-wallet app. Passbook will store an assortment of tickets, coupons, loyalty cards, and other passes in one convenient location, without ever obtaining the user’s credit or debit card information. It’s not a fully fledged mobile payment solution just yet, but for now it is a secure start into digital payment systems.
There are already apps on the market that resemble what Passbook offers to individuals. The two apps worthy of mentioning are Lemon and Belly, and both provide a mix of features that echoes Passbook’s features.
Lemon is an app that provides more elements than what Passbook will bring forth. Aside from the ability for users to store membership cards, loyalty cards, and tickets, it has the capability of stockpiling credit and debit cards, ID cards, and receipts. Users simply take a picture of their respective cards, receipts, or coupons, and the images are converted into digitized copies inside the Lemon app. Each card is stored in a neat user interface (very similar to that of Passbook’s), and browsing through the app is simple.
In terms of variety, Lemon has the upper hand as it actually is capable of storing all the items in your wallet. When taking pictures of receipts, Lemon even can serve as a financial tool that tracks spending behavior and finances. Reports can be generated and exported into other programs (i.e. Excel, Numbers, Evernote) for the user to manage and see the balances of their credit cards.
The major downside of all of Lemon is that these digitized versions of cards or tickets cannot actually be used to pay for items. The app is essentially a backup tool in the event that a wallet is lost or you don’t have your wallet on you. It’s a way to digitally store everything that is in your wallet, but when it comes down to paying for items, these digital copies would not suffice.
The tactics employed by Google Offers and Groupon wields upon discount based culture, and this is not a good business model for retailers in the long run. Short periods of high volume transactions at very discounted prices would not necessarily convert short-term customers to valued, long-term ones. This is where Belly steps in.
Belly is an app with the goal of revolutionizing customer loyalty systems. It’s functions are more alike to Passbook’s as it focuses on the retailer as well as the user. The app allows for users to redeem loyalty points every time they visit the outlet or make a purchase at a point-of-sale. In essence, Belly is trying to replace traditional stamp cards that businesses provide and help transition them from paper standards to digital means. By doing so, Belly’s membership plan even includes equipping iPads for retailers to make this possible.
Not only smartphone users can benefit from this. Individuals can even use one of the merchant provided cards that have QR codes on it so that it can be scanned at the point-of-sale. So in terms of diversity, Belly caters to both smartphone and non-smartphone users.
Customers simply scan the QR code on the physical card or from their smartphone app at the outlet, and automatically are given rewards or points that can be accumulated. There is now even more of an incentive for customers to repeatedly return to the outlet. Only one universal loyalty card/digital loyalty card is needed, so the inconvenience of fumbling for the right card is alleviated.
The downside for Belly is that retailers must be on board with this. The right equipment, signing up for the membership plan, and just putting effort to transition from old loyalty methods to new ones may be cumbersome.
So Who Wins?
Lemon and Belly have already been out on the market and used throughout the United States. Both provide features that are similar to Passbook’s with Lemon serving more as a backup wallet with digitalized copies and Belly dealing with customer loyalty. For now, it’s hard to say whether Passbook would dominate this market, but it definitely has the potential to transform mobile payments indefinitely in the future.