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Passbook and MLB

As many of you know, I am a huge Orioles fan, have and try to make it to games whenever possible. I have had the pleasure of going to two games at Camden Yards this year (both Opening Day and more recently in September, when my very own brother threw out the first pitch), and I must say that I am very excited that MLB has embraced Passbook.

When iOS 6 was announced, Passbook was regarded as an integral, highly streamlined feature that many declared would change your travel and entertainment experience. While I think that still holds true, when iOS was actually released, Passbook was met with confusion and frustration, for multiple reasons. The app and its promised integration are in its infancy, meaning that many companies and retailers haven’t become fully Passbook-compatible — either because a companion app doesn’t exist, or that when you show up in person to redeem your ticket (say, for the movie you’ve reserved), the employees aren’t all trained to know what to do.

Just as much as the latter speaks to the frustration that many users felt upon trying to use Passbook, the first part — the app — speaks to the confusion. You mean, now that I have Passbook, I have to download other apps, too?! From the original description in the keynote touting iOS 6 and its features, I, like many others, assumed that Passbook would be all-inclusive. That somehow, Apple’s developers would figure out a magical way for this app to talk to all of the other apps I already had, making them unnecessary, and that it “would just know” the businesses I used based on data that I could enter. However, it’s not quite that simple. Consider Passbook to be the vehicle (travel pun intended) to take you where you need to go, but you still have to pack your bags.

To quote Victor Agreda, Jr. from TUAW, “Passbook … has created a sort of commercial hub of simplicity. I am getting offers I want, delivered where I want.” Though he was not used to using coupons and doing things this way, he also noted, “That’s significant. Getting consumers to change behaviors is incredibly hard.”

But, back to MLB and how they plan to utilize Passbook. As one of the major organizations to embrace Passbook, MLB is ahead of the curve (oh, the bad puns continue) with its integration in the MLB.com At Bat app, and CEO of MLB Advance Media, Bob Bowman, described their reasoning thusly: “Passbook — which allows tickets and loyalty cards from a variety of outlets to be delivered to one iPhone app — proved to be an instant hit with fans.”

Per Market Watch, they did a test run during the last two weeks of the regular season, and they found that about 12% (roughly 1,500 e-ticket buyers) chose to use delivery via Passbook. Bowman said, “That adoption rate really floored us — there is no question our fans want digital tickets … [they] can use the tickets, forward them to a friend, resell them, or even donate them to charity — and they never get lost or left at home.”

Last week, on our radio show, I shared that I once had to repurchase airline tickets because I had lost my original paper tickets in a move. (Never was I happier to see a transition to digital reservations after that $500 mistake.) While the initial list of Passbook-supported apps is small (14 at the time of this writing), I anticipate that businesses will continue to come on board rapidly, saving countless others from a similar fate. Here’s hoping it’s a smooth ride (last one, I promise).

To see the full list of apps and to download, head to the iTunes Store, click Apps within the iTunes menu bar, and then select Apps for Passbook.

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