The Pied Piper of Local

The recent iPhone5 was being watched avidly by locally oriented folks for the introduction of an NFC chip to the phone to turn your iPhone into a swipe payment device. Sadly it wasn’t there, so we will have to wait for the next slightly thinner, slightly faster slightly more cool iPhone6 for that much needed feature. Buried deep amongst the other “slightly better’ features which I really don’t care that much about, is an entirely new feature which I do think will make a significant difference. The Passbook feature comes as part of the new operating system and it’s potentially a game changer. There has been much hoopla touted about rewards and coupons being made available to folks based on where they are. The ideal scenario is that you walk into your favorite coffee shop and your phone tells you that cookies are half off for the next hour….it sounds simple but it has eluded the market …till now.

To date major brands have tried to use Twitter for this kind of deal push and it works to an extent, but the App based loyalty programs available so far really only work if the App happens to be running…which is a huge pain in the phone. The new Passbook feature lets you accumulate your electronic coupons, tickets, boarding passes and cards in one place so you won’t have to fish through your pocket book for those loyalty cards or coupons. That’s both useful and convenient but the Passbook also opens the iPhone up as a real time proximity coupon delivery device. Apple is famously stuffy about who it works with and what those partners can do but it’s a pretty good bet that some time real soon when you sign up with some kind of affinity program or you when you follow a brand you will be asked if you would like to receive notices of special deals through Passbook.

The cool factor comes in when you add in proximity. Just how close you are to a particular location to trigger a coupon will vary based on the kind of offer. The cookies makes sense when you are right inside the coffee shop, whereas a nail salon might push an offer to clients on a wider basis on the grounds that they are more likely to drive to the location. In both cases the end user does not have to have an App running to get a notification on the lock screen that there is a relevant and perhaps very close offer to consider.

I think this could be huge, it could be bigger than the deal of the day nonsense and will likely force every loyalty and coupon play to get on board or go under. We can be sure that Android will have a similar feature in the next release or two so we are looking location based offers becoming very common very soon (I think propinquity ubiquity has a nice ring to it). Apple doesn’t need this feature to build their business so my expectation is that they will do it carefully and right so we don’t get deal spammed out of existence and they have the massive user base needed to make this relevant right out of the box. It could even lead to a ‘Pied Piper effect’ where a deal gets launched and leads to a crowd of deal hunters following to the location like the famous rats of Hamelin. Remember….you heard it here first.

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