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Posted on 10.02.2012

Coupons, Gift Cards, Boarding Passes All in One Place…Oh My!

True confessions: I've never been a fan of coupons. They're a hassle to keep up with and, honestly, they usually expire before I remember to use them. And while I love receiving a gift card, I typically lose it before I can redeem it.

I admit...some of this may reflect a lack of organization on my part, but I am not the only really busy person who needs help remembering what might be floating around in the bottom of my purse or the back of my car console.

And what about sponsoring businesses? They provide offers and invest in discount programs to entice customers and generate sales, but if people like me aren't taking advantage of them they aren't garnering the ROI they anticipated. 

Apple recently launched a new app (and installed it on the home screen of all iPhone users as part of the iO6 update) called Passbook that is said to help alleviate these problems. All those loose coupons and gift cards can be stored in one place - along with your boarding passes, movie vouchers and concert tickets. According to the company, "Scan your iPhone or iPod touch to check in for a flight, get into a movie, and redeem a coupon. You can also see when your coupons expire, where your concert seats are, and the balance left on that all-important coffee bar card."

Brands like Starbucks, Target and Sephora are already participating. Sephora saw 17,000 Passbook users in one day after sending out a mass email letting people know they could upload their Beauty Insider card to the new app. Now Target customers will be able to store coupons on their phone instead of keeping up pieces of paper. When Starbucks senior vice president Adam Brotman was asked about the app he said why not enhance the customer experience and connect them to our brand on devices that they already love?

What about folks like me who forget they have a gift card or loyalty membership? No worries. Passbook's location aware feature will send me an alert when I walk into a business that has a voucher, coupon, etc., stored in my phone.

Is it perfect? Of course not - at least not yet. While Sephora and Target are Passbook active, many retailers are not. Flying United? Welcome to ticketless travel. Traveling with another airline, not so fast. And what happens if your iPhone dies on the way to a sports event or concert - and you have no "proof" to show that you purchased front row seats?

Sure - there will be kinks. But the promise of Passbook - and retailers' opportunity to reach iPhone's wildly dedicated, billion-member consumer base - may be just too good to Pass(book) up.

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