May 30, 2013, 10:29 AM

A new tool lets retailers offer Apple Passbook deals without an app

Customers download into Passbook a “promoCard” through which retailers can present special offers.

Lead Photo

Apple Passbook on an iPhone

Retailers have a new option to market to consumers using Apple Inc.’s Passbook mobile wallet.  AHG Inc. says its promoCard is akin to both a loyalty card and a coupon book that consumers download directly into their Passbook accounts.

Passbook is an app that comes pre-loaded on Apple iPhone and iPod Touch devices running the iOS6 mobile operating system. In it, customers store their “passes,” or the coupons, loyalty cards, tickets, gift cards and other digitally redeemable items they collect from retailers and other businesses. PromoCards are analogous to passes, but do not require custom development to work with Passbook. Typically, merchants would need to build their own Passbook pass, enable their mobile app to work with Passbook or go through another company’s mobile app which already does, such as that of gift card aggregator CashStar, to send customers offers.

Retailers can customize and update the cards with new deals, product details or other information, such as event or contest news, as often as they like, according to AHG. “As a result, instead of separate coupons cluttering his passbook, a customer gets just one card, but he always has the most recent information on it,” says CEO Alex Heiphetz.

Retailers can create custom promoCards through a web portal and AHG will store card data and facilitate customer downloads on a retailer’s behalf—for $220 semiannually or $395 annually, Heiphetz says. Or, retailers can purchase the software to develop and distribute promoCards from their own servers for a flat fee of $795, which includes installation, he says.

They may also send multiple versions of a promoCard to customers. For example, an outdoor recreation merchant could target skiers with one card and kayakers with another, Heiphetz says. The retailer controls which offers go to each card and, since each card contains a unique tracking URL, monitor which generate the most customer responses, he says.

PromoCard also generates QR codes that retailers can distribute to customers as they choose, for example, on web sites, on product packaging and receipts, or inside marketing messages like e-mails. A QR code is a two-dimensional bar code that when scanned by a smartphone camera links to mobile web-based content. “Now people have so many applications on their devices that it is not that easy to convince them to download another one,” Heiphetz says. “On the other hand, all iPhone users have Passbook installed.” So, he adds, once a customer downloads a promoCard, she is likely to see a retailer’s offers regularly as she uses her Passbook.

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