So I have this friend who goes into a fit when I bend, fold, mutilate or spindle my ticket to a baseball game. Game one, 2000 San Francisco Giants vs. New York Mets, new stadium, cool game tickets with all sorts of embossed decals symbolizing the first playoff game at Pac Bell Park. After passing through the turnstile and my ticket scanned by a code reader, I promptly stuffed it into my pocket.
For us ticket benders, MLB now has an app for that. Working with Apple’s new Passbook wallet technology, Giants fans can use their iPhones to present a virtual ticket at the gate of AT&T Park (same park, different name). Airlines and trains have been offering smartphone-based boarding passes for some while now, but even as an ardent eco-friendly sort, I find the displacement of paper for a virtual ticket or pass somewhat of an annoyance rather than an convenience. Speaking of being eco-friendly, some point out that many smartphone batteries will sit in landfills until cockroaches take over the world and many components are made of hazardous materials.
Let’s not digress. I see the issue here as one of practical applications that yield a benefit versus an app in search of a market (aka overkill). In my very first presentation for this company back in 1994 I was asked to talk about what consumer benefits will come with the future of the internet. I recall the overhead I presented included these thoughts: In order for Internet to flourish, it would need to allow a user to save time or money; offer a special, entertaining experience; fulfill some avarice (greed, lust, vanity) or provide something that was never available in the physical world.
What sort of convenience does a virtual ticket offer? Are existing tickets so cumbersome they need to be replaced? One could just as easily lose a smartphone or accidentally delete the ticket from the phone as lose the paper ticket. Do I believe in virtual wallet technology? Absolutely—especially for lower priced transactions such as buying a cup of coffee at Starbucks or a Happy Meal at Mickey D’s. For a ride at Disneyland where a virtual ticket could speed up the line for the teacup side? For sure.
Virtual wallets are great, and if the current Tower of Babel scenario of competing forces comes to some resolution, they will be a godsend for many digital marketers (especially given the ability to gather data on the wallet holder) but the first step should be whether the deployment of a wallet in a commerce program offers a benefit to the consumer or is just for showing off.