Apple Passbook – How to create one yourself

If your clients are in the business of driving footfall to their stores, you want to read this.

In just 8 weeks into the launch of iOS6, it has reached more than 45% adoption rate globally. So is it time to take a closer look into mobile-couponing and loyalty platform Apple-style? We think so.

If you are new to Apple Passbook, we have written extensively in September which you can read here. This article however is more about Apple Passbook Passes and how to create them for your business. And it can get a little bit technical and some of the content have been borrowed from other contributors and sources.

First of all, it’s important to understand that Apple iOS 6 Passbook Passes are not apps. So there is no development time and cost associated with it.

Passes which is basically coupons or tickets are just a file type that only works almost all the latest iOS platforms, including OS X. When a user clicks on a .pkpass file on any of those devices it will add it to Passbook, the app, and, if the user has iCloud set up, it will sync the Pass across all of the user’s devices.

Each Pass looks more or less the same but you can define the colour that you want. Since it’s small, they tend to have minimal copy on them and they all have a 2D barcode that can be read by laser and optical scanners. Now the camera in your iPhone/iPad is a very capable 2D barcode scanner in case you don’t have those industrial ones but if you were expecting thousands of people with passes, it’s better to use the proper stuff.












Currently there are 5 types of Passes.

  • Boarding Pass
  • Coupon
  • Event Ticket
  • Store Card
  • or ‘Generic’ (more of this later)

So if you are in the business that rely on getting people to walk in the door, for e.g. a yoga or health club, you could use the Coupon Pass to get new members, who then could get a Store Card they could use daily as a membership card, and if the club held a special event, the Event Ticket Pass could even be used as well. What this means at each of the 5 types of passes can be deployed based on your needs.
One of the best thing about Passbook and the reason why this will replace physical loyalty cards, coupons and gift cards is two things: One is the fact you can change any of the deals or discounts, offer expiry date etc. via your computer, send a push notification to your customers and all of them who holds the Passes will be notified in real time. This removes the headache of going through your CRM database and emailing your customers on changes. For e.g. if your store is now offering a 10% instead of 5% discount, you don’t have to print thousands of new store cards.

The other is the proximity marketing that you can enjoy. If an iOS user walks pass your store, you can send push notification to inform that user of the promotion that you are having. And again for retail especially restaurants that rely heavily on lunch hours and dinner traffic, this can be big. Gone are the days of relying on SMS or Bluetooth to send proximity or location-based messages. You are now in more control of how you want to manage your customers and sales.

Passes have two sides, front is your coupon/ticket/membership card/etc., and the back has your contact and company information, a delete button, and a link that opens up your iOS app, if you have one.


Creating your own Pass is easy

In this example, we are using Passkit,, admin interface to demonstrate how easy it is to create a Pass on your own.
















As you can see above, many of the fields that you need to fill up are self-explanatory.

You can start by choosing the Pass Type, give it a name and choose the relevant certificate for it. There’s a self-help link to help you understand what Pass Certificate, or Pass ID. However you will need a key using an Apple Developer account to verify the authenticity of your Passes and ensure that you are the owner of the Pass.
The Show on lockscreen at is where you can specify the expiration date if you have any. The next screen is where you can be a little creative with the design of your pass.

















The screen above helps you to choose the colour, icon, logo, and a strip image which is basically picture of your products or store front.

















The next two interface, Front and Back Content are where you add content to the face of the pass. Each field requires a unique name that will be used by the API when updating the pass. Each pass type has a prescribed layout and a maximum number of fields. Passbook will automatically shrink long text values and very long text values may be cut short.

Use the dynamic option if the label or data value will be different on each pass. If you add a change message, an alert will appear on the user’s lock-screen or notification centre whenever the pass is updated with new data.

The next interesting is one of the most interesting ones. Location allows you display a message on the screen when the user is close to a location where it can be used, you can enter up to 10 locations below.

Once you are done with that, Languages is where you can actually localise your Passes if you are running this Passes in multiple markets across Asia.


















Last but not least, Distribution interface is where you specify how many Pass each iOS user can install but take note that Passes like membership cards or event tickets are not appropriate for this restrictions as some users may want to install it on other devices. And the password fields allow you to set password so that only a certain member of your staff can issue and/or update a Pass.

















Once you have a Pass ready, getting the word out about the Pass is simple enough, especially after Apple recently introduced the “Add to Passbook” button, which gives visitors to your website, or readers of your email newsletter, a recognizable (at least eventually) reminder to add a Pass.

Pass creation services

Since the launch of iOS 6 in September, there has been a wave of services/startups that are focusing on tools for marketers to build, share and track Passes. And here’s some of them that you can Google:

  • PassRocket
  • PassKit
  • PassDock
  • PassPages
  • WalletKit
  • PassSlot
  • PassWallet (Android port)

The success of Apple Passbook is still yet to be seen as we think it all depends on whether Android OS will make a push for it. Already we have seen solution providers such as PassKit allowing you to create Passes for Android platforms and PassWallet is an Android app that you have to download to use them. But to date we have not seen Google pushing it aggressively cause they still have Google Wallet that has been very slow in terms of adoption due to NFC adoption by retailers. But Apple Passbook on the other hand has made is super easy for consumers and businesses to enjoy digital wallet.


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