Woobox, a two-year old social marketing platform, recently added support for Apple’s Passbook in its coupons app. The integration lets businesses create Passbook coupons using its system, and can even require customers to perform some sort of social action before gaining access to the coupon. For example, they may have to “like” the brand on Facebook or follow them on Twitter. But the company has also just added another feature which could really spur Passbook adoption at the small business level: support for Passbook coupons over SMS.
This feature is an option within the current Passbook coupon creation process Woobox just introduced last week. It means that businesses can advertise to customers to text a particular number in order to immediately receive a mobile coupon that’s then stored directly in their Apple Passbook app. And most importantly, it means that businesses of all sizes can get onboard with Passbook, even if they don’t have point-of-sale equipment capable of scanning QR codes, like the big-brand Passbook early adopters (Walgreens, Target, airlines, etc.) do.
I was able to test the system this morning, and it was incredibly easy to use. To those who say Passbook still has its kinks to work out, this is a drop-dead simple solution. In my test, I simply texted the word “crunch” to the phone number provided and immediately received a text back with a link to the coupon. All that I had to do was tap the link and the Passbook coupon appeared.
From there, you can tap the blue “Add” button to save the coupon to your Passbook app, if you choose. Of course, if a customer was planning to use the coupon immediately, that step isn’t necessary – they could just launch the coupon and show it to the cashier at point-of-sale without storing it for later use (as would be appropriate for one-time use coupons, for example).
What’s really clever about the Passbook couponing system that Woobox has created are the various configuration options that let businesses optionally create restrictions and other steps users must perform before they’re allowed access to the coupon. In this case, instead of the SMS-sent link directly opening the Passbook coupon on the iPhone’s screen, it would direct the customer to an “offer” web page where they might have to take some other action, like become a Facebook fan of the business, follow them on Twitter, or tweet the offer to their Twitter followers, for example.
Coupon Codes, Not QR Codes
The businesses can also restrict the coupons to one per customer, configure them for one-time use, limit the total number of coupons that can be generated, and set expiration dates during the coupon creation process. The system supports the use of coupon codes as an alternative to scanning the QR code. QR code scanning is supported – the business can use any scanning app to do so – but it’s not integrated with point-of-sale systems. Instead, the scan will display whether a coupon has been redeemed. According to Woobox founder George DeCarlo, businesses are more likely to have a system that supports coupon codes in place already, which is why this method makes more sense.
“The demand just isn’t there [for POS integration using QR codes], because there’s very low-tech simple solutions that they can use,” he says. With Woobox, businesses can either download a list of coupon codes that Woobox generates for them, or they can upload a list of their own coupon codes to print on the vouchers. “We’ve had some big brand restaurant chains…export out a list of codes from their point-of-sale system because they may not be set up to scan a QR code on a pass. But they can use the code that’s on the front of the pass and type that into the POS and validate that coupon as legitimate,” he says.
Woobox, for those unfamiliar, works with over a million brands that use its apps, primarily on Facebook. It has worked with Starbucks, Sam’s Club, Nordstrom, Warner Bros., Wendy’s, A&P, Quiznos, Jiffy Lube, Cold Stone Creamery, and many others, including small, mom-and-pop businesses. It offers coupon apps, sweepstakes apps, static HTML tab apps for Facebook, Pinterest apps (including a new “Pin to Win” app), and more. The company now sees over a quarter of a billion Facebook page app visits per month, to give you an idea of scale.
In other words, Woobox has the reach to begin making something like SMS to Apple Passbook a thing.
DeCarlo tells me that SMS feature is live now, but Woobox is about three weeks out from being able to offer to businesses a standard, generic shortcode they can use. The system currently works by texting a regular phone number, or businesses can set up their own number or short code if they so choose in the meantime. A free plan will support up to 50 passes per month, and paid plans are $29/month and up.
Based in Portland, Woobox is a bootstrapped, profitable team of four, and is not interested in outside funding at this time.