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Fobi Insider - Episode 11: Deep Dive: Passcreator
This week's episode is all about Passcreator's strong presence in the European market, long ties to Apple and Google, Fobi's recent acquisition of Passcreator, and what's coming up on the road ahead.
Passcreator's CEO David Sporer was among the first developers to start working with Apple's Wallet pass development kit in 2012 when it was first released.
Nearly 10 years later, Passcreator has created over 50 million Apple and Google passes for over 4000 customers. From BMW to major European sports leagues, Passcreator has helped its enterprise clients tap a powerful mobile engagement channel.
This week's episode of the Fobi Insider (Formerly Loop Experience) Podcast is all about Passcreator's strong presence in the European market and long ties to Apple and Google, Fobi's recent acquisition of Passcreator, and what's coming up on the road ahead.
The following is a transcript of the conversation between Fobi Marketing Director Devon Seidel and Passcreator CEO David Sporer.
Fobi Marketing Director Devon Seidel: Now, Apple released their first initial launch into wallet passes back in 2012 with their iOS 6 update. Were you directly connected to Apple at that time?
Passcreator CEO David Sporer: We definitely have a good relationship with both Apple and Google.
Devon: How many customers does Passcreator currently have and how many passes has Passcreator actually created?
David: Since the launch of Passcreator back in 2012, the system has been used to create an estimated 50-60 million passes. Right now, there's around 200 customers and 4,000 businesses that signed up. Google is listing partners on their webpage publicly. We're one of them, and we've done massive exploration for contactless solutions during the last few years, especially every time Apple launched Apple Pay in a country, we've seen a huge uptake in pass usage as well.
Devon: Hey, you're listening to the Loop Experience Podcast. Join us for exclusive interviews, behind the scenes updates, and all things Loop. Coming at you from the Loop head office at Vancouver, I'm your host Dev.
Welcome back to the Loop Experience Podcast, our guest today is David Sporer, the CEO of Passcreator. Welcome to the show, David.
David: Thanks for having me, Dev.
Devon: Just to give our listeners an overview of Loop and Passcreator's relationship, Loop acquired Passcreator on March 29th, 2021, after a long working relationship. Passcreator had been providing wallet passes for Loop's engage and venue management solution. By acquiring Passcreator, we're really excited because Loop will now vertically integrate the wallet past capabilities as well as gain access to Passcreator clients such as BMW and Mercedes Consulting. That's super exciting for us, and we're really happy about having this relationship move forward and really working closely together. Kind of to give our listeners a better understanding of what Passcreator actually does, David, would you be able to break that down for us?
David: Sure. Basically Passcreator, at its core, is a SaaS platform that allows customers to create, manage and analyze wallet campaigns. What a wallet campaign on iOS or Android may be is basically up to the customer. It can be anything from ticketing, coupons, store cards, membership passes, or a combination of those things. Customers will find anything in the application they need from what you see is what you get editor to distribution channels like email and text message distribution, signup pages for the users and analytics. For our clients to get started, they just need to sign up for Passcreator and have a working solution right away. That's basically our selling point.
Devon: That's awesome. That's a completely encompassing pass generator, pass delivering, and pass creation product that we're now able to fully offer to all of our customers.
David: Exactly. Yes. The most important thing is that after users have saved the pass, you can send them a notification. The pass itself becomes the communication channel, if you will.
Devon: Great. I don't actually think all of our listeners realize how big Passcreator actually is. You guys are based in Germany. How many customers does Passcreator currently have and how many passes has Passcreator actually created?
David: I mean, that changes every day since we get a lot of additional sign-ups, but right now there's around 200 customers and 4,000 businesses that signed up. These people manage around 8 million passes today that are in the system right now, since the launch of Passcreator, back in 2012, the system has been used to create an estimated number of 50, or something between 50 and 60 million passes.
Devon: That's a lot of customer touch points. Like you said, that communication channel with customers just showing how established Passcreator actually is. I want to note on one piece there that you talked about back in 2012. Now, Apple actually first released Apple Passbook back in 2012 with their iOS 6 update. This was their first initial launch into wallet passes, and then Google launched their similar platform around the same time. Since 2012 seemed to be a big year, were you directly connected to Apple at that time, or you just saw that as a great opportunity.
David: Basically, we saw it as an opportunity or back then it was just me. It grew throughout the years and we definitely have a good relationship with both Apple and Google. What Apple did back then was just launch an SDK, so you had to be a developer or pay someone to issue passes for you. Then, I went on to create a simple online form where you could just enter your name and receive the dummy voucher that you could save on your phone. That was something like September, 2012. After iOS 6 was released, that page was accessed around, I don't know, 300,000-400,000 times. I thought I might be up to something and continued working on it. Obviously, since we've been one of the first doing that, they know us, let's put it that way.
Devon: That's good. Yeah. Being in that pool of initial developers that are really starting to work with the software that Apple and Google are providing really gives you such a benefit because you've seen the growth of what Apple and Google have been progressing with their platforms. How did you really get started in passes?
David: So, the honest answer to that is I was a bit bored with my shop back then, which is about nine years already. I was just playing around with interesting technologies, I'm a developer myself, and then was watching Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference and found it pretty interesting what they did with Passbook. That was basically how it started. Then, after the initial enter your name and get the voucher form, obviously I added a lot more features to it. The first live project was a beach party of an organization that I'm volunteering for in Munich with roughly 2,000 guests. That was in June, 2013, something like that. Passcreator was used to sell passes online and do the check-in onsite, so pretty much still what's the core of the tool today, but obviously it was a whole lot of different back then.
Devon: Have you seen it in a lot of great progressions of the actual software since then?
David: Yeah, sure. I mean, obviously, if you start doing such things, you're constantly learning. Besides the fact that we added new features and the platform became a lot more mighty than it was back then. Yeah. You're constantly learning and I think that's a good thing in software.
Devon: I want to touch on a piece that you said there about your relationship with Apple and having them know you, which is a good thing. Having been working in the wallet pass space for so long, what is the working relationship with Apple?
David: I mean, we're in close contact with them for a lot of different projects and ask them for advice or for support in some of these cases as well. We've been one of the first companies using their technology and making it available to businesses around the world. That was something unique back then where we've not been the only ones, but we're definitely been one of the first ones. Yeah, Google is listing partners on their webpage publicly. We're one of them. We're a Google Pay partner. We've also seen massive exploration for contactless solutions during the last few years, especially every time Apple launched Apple Pay in a country, we've seen a huge uptick in pass usage as well, which is obviously not directly related to payments, but that happened in Switzerland and Germany and a couple of different countries around the world.
Devon: I think that's actually something very important to note to our listeners, many of Loop's projects incorporate loyalty and engagement and use wallet passes as one of the ways to deliver this. Conversations with Apple's vast team and Apple's vast employees and Google employees. As they move towards digital currencies and identities, and the more that they're advancing with mobile wallets, it's great to have that connection with them. Like you said, having that conversation between these companies as they develop what these technologies are going to look like in the future, it gives us the ability to know where to develop our products and kind of the roadmap that we should be following along with them.
David: Yeah, definitely. I mean, I guess it's valuable to them to receive the feedback directly from customers as well. We are, in a sense, important to them, pass service providers in general. It's obviously important for us to have the relationship with them to keep pushing new projects forward, especially when NFC passes are involved, which is always a thing that makes it easier for customers and Apple takes a great deal in these things, so making the user experience as perfect as possible.
Devon: I think there's actually some use cases that we've been working on that Apple's actually been very interested in and looking to see how we're specifically using a pass that even they haven't thought of before.
David: Yeah, basically, that's that happens when you have a lot of people using your software, there's always new ideas that either Apple or us haven't been thinking about before. That's definitely something that's, yeah, important.
Devon: That's great. I want to kind of switch gears and move to more of the connection between Loop and Passcreator. You guys are located in Europe. We're located in North America. What do you see as some of the synergies or benefits of now bringing our companies together and being located in different geographical areas?
David: I mean, the obvious thing is time zones. We're nine hours ahead. It's pretty early for you. It's late already for me. We do have a global customer base. We've got signups from more than 130 different countries amongst Passcreator customers. It's a huge value to have teams in different time zones, on different continents, to be really able to provide support around the clock to our customers. I mean, we've been doing a pretty good job in that area, but obviously it makes it a lot easier with the new setup that we now have. Also, in terms of sales exploration, this will also be helpful that we are located in Europe and you're in North America. It's just a closer way to the customer.
Devon: We've actually seen, you have lots of great European customers that are maybe using passes differently than we've seen in the North American market as well too. It's a great connection that we can look at. What is the European market doing and how can we bring that to the North American market where we're kind of just using it right now for more ticketing and sports engagement, but there's different verticals of companies that are using passes in Europe that we're actually looking to target within the North American market now.
David: Yeah, definitely. I mean, one thing that's very huge in Europe right now is insurance companies. We can't talk about these projects in detail, but there's a lot of passes floating around from insurance companies. Airports is obvious to basically everyone, but not only for boarding passes. Yeah. I think that is a discussion that will really help both of us.
Devon: That's great. That actually leads us into kind of the next topic that I want to touch on. Let's talk about some of Passcreators, and now I guess Loop's customers, and the ways that they're using wallet passes. I've selected just four of them. We don't have to go too in-depth about these actual use cases, but I want to highlight some of the range of customers and activations that you guys are currently working on. The first one that I want to touch on, you mentioned there, is airports. Euro Trade at the Munich Airport, the business operates around 50 stores actually in the airport. This is divided into duty-free, fashion, press and travel, and watches and jewelry. From a North American market, the stores we would normally see when we go to the airport. How is Euro Trade using the wallet passes?
David: Basically, there's a couple of different campaigns targeted to both customers and employees of Euro Trade or the Munich Airport itself. One I want to highlight is that they are using their existing communication channels, like apps, email, or ads in third-party apps to distribute wallet coupons and increase traffic to their duty-free stores at Munich airport. The distribution usually starts before departure already. When customers arrive in Munich, they are reminded of their coupon using geo-fence push notifications on their lock screen. That basically drives more traffic to the duty-free stores because you have your direct communication channel again with the customer. That's also something that's unique for them really to be able to start the customer interaction before departure, and then yeah, continue with it on arrival.
Devon: How long has this customer been using these wallet passes? Because obviously, we're seeing a little bit of restriction to travel right now. Did they start it before the pandemic, or are they kind of using it throughout the pandemic?
David: No, they definitely started before the pandemic. I'm not a hundred percent sure when it started actually, but I think it must have been something like 2018-2019, so that timeframe. They've been using Passcreator grades at least for a year before the pandemic hit.
Devon: That's great. Then majorly a coupon focus. Is that redemption actually happening at their point of sale?
David: Yes. There's also some different use cases for employees. Where passes have a value, but that's something we might should need to discuss in the future.
Devon: Okay, great. Let's move on to the next one. Another notable business is the BMW group. They needed a solution that was able to deliver a membership card to their customers, but then also supply them vouchers in a convenient way as well. What did this implement look like with BMW?
David: Yeah, basically they're running an aftermarket subscription service that gives customers various benefits as part of the subscriptions. For example, you can get free wiper blades discounts at the dealership or a free car wash once per month. That depends a bit on what country you look at. It's not only one market they are active with that product. There's an interface basically between their subscription management service and Passcreator that takes care of automatically creating passes, either initially when you enrol in the subscription, or on a monthly basis, updating passes when something changes like your last name, your email address, stuff like that, or your number of plate, disabling the passes on cancellation of the subscription, as well as sending these passes to the customers using Passcreator's built in email capabilities.
The thing that you mentioned with the vouchers is basically the monthly free car wash voucher that gets created through the interface and then delivered to the customer. They can just use that voucher, drive to the fuel station, get their free car wash. Again, redemption is done at the point of sale, and the voucher codes are distributed by corporation partners of BMW in the respective markets.
Devon: These vouchers, they can be activated at, like you said, for example, if a a carwash, they can be activated at different car washes?
David: Yeah. Basically they are working together with a large chain of fuel stations, in that case in Ireland mainly. You can use these vouchers in every fuel station of that, yeah, brand basically.
Devon: Great. Passcreator is actually doing that backend work right to produce those individual promotions, or individual vouchers that are one use, so we're not able to see different BMW owners copy and send them to different users.
David: No, I mean, they could, theoretically, but then someone else will use your voucher. These are individual vouchers, and personalized ones, there's also your name on it. Yeah, there's basically a list of valid voucher codes in the system. Every time a new pass is created or a new voucher is created, in that case the system will automatically pick the next voucher code and make sure that every single code can only be used once. That's basically how it works. These vouchers also are limited in terms of validity. At some point in time, they will expire. That's basically two things. The fuel station scan these vouchers to make sure that everyone or every pass can only be used once.
Devon: The next one that I want to touch on is HSV. Hamburg's, as we call it here in North America soccer, but football club, they wanted a digital version of their supporters club members card, and also wanted to provide offers through the wallet pass, but then also tier levels to their fans. First of all, I know this is probably a massive activation. How many passes are actually active with HSV?
David: Yeah. HSV issued around 87,000 passes for basically all of the members of their club. The passes are personalized based on the membership status. For example, a kid's club member will see a different background image than an adult member. The passes can be used to get access to various meetings, such as general meetings of the club, get in touch with HSV's office, and they're also using it to regularly send out push notifications. HSV really is a big deal here in Germany, they are one of the most historic sports clubs. They are around for 133 years now, which was also the occasion when they started to basically provide a digital version of their membership cards. They also have a very successful professional sports team, not during the last two or three years, but they are recovering currently. We wish them all the best, even if we're from Munich, which has some sort of competition, obviously. Yeah.
Devon: What has their response been with the passes? Is it a good response? Is it something that really filled a hole or gap that they were looking for?
David: Yeah, definitely. I mean, it makes things easier for them and they also have that communication channel there using Passcreator to regularly send updates to their club members. That's really something that they couldn't do before, simply they had to send mails or emails and now they can just use the passes themselves, which makes it a lot easier and a lot more flexible.
Devon: Correct me if I'm wrong, this actually digitized their current membership, where they were receiving cards or paper copies of their membership in the mail. Now, they actually can have a digital piece as well. Right?
David Sporer: Yeah, exactly. Basically, there's still an option to get a physical membership card, but the wallet pass is really what they are trying to push now. A lot of their users are actually using the wallet pass.
Devon: And they can use that wallet pass to get into certain events that they host in other activations like that?
David: Yeah, exactly. Basically, HSV is, as I mentioned, not only the professional team, but it's also like yeah, casual sports. You can go to gyms or play football, soccer, yourself or various different activities that they offer for club members and they have the amateur teams, and yeah that's basically what it's used for to authenticate yourself when you enter certain venues that they have and offer for club members.
Devon: That's great. Okay. The last one that I want to touch is what Passcreator's actually done with Tourism Northern Territory in Australia. I think this is actually such an interesting use case in our time right now, because it deals with economic recovery of tourism. That's a focus that Loop has been looking at recently too. The group was looking for the ability to increase tourism locally as borders were closed during the pandemic. Can you tell me a little bit more about this launch?
David: Sure. One thing that's maybe also important in Australia, there was not only the pandemic, they've been hit by wildfires as well beginning of 2020. That all played together there and then hit them even harder. Basically Tourism NT was looking for a way to distribute vouchers quickly, efficiently, and in a contactless way. They've been issuing, initially, 26,000 vouchers with 200 Australian dollars each and each territory and could apply for such a voucher on a first come first serve basis. They've been put towards a tourism experience so long as they match the spend with their own money. The $5.2 million voucher initiative was supported by a marketing campaign called Never Have I Ever that encouraged residents to book an experience they'd never get around to enjoy for themselves. That really was a huge success. There have been multiple other campaigns after that in the same way. Yeah, it really was a great success. As you can imagine with $200 worth, they've basically had a very high adoption rate of these vouchers, because nobody wants to waste that.
Devon: What was the response kind of after the initial activation? Because you've said that they've built off of this and done a few more campaigns around it. Was supplying them finally was something that they're actually tangibly able to use? Did the wallet pass fill a hole for them?
David: I mean, we're still in the midst of the pandemic, unfortunately. We'll see how it progresses afterwards, but they've built interfaces to our systems. It's really something that's looking more like a long-term solution for them and not only a one off shot. I'm not sure how many campaigns did it, to be honest, but it must've been at least three or four since last July. What was exceptional as well was the speed in, yeah, that we enabled them to launch the campaign was only a couple of weeks. Given that it was that big of a campaign, that was really great to see.
Devon: That's good. Is this actually using the stored value feature through Passcreator or is this using a different way to transfer the funds?
David: No, it's not using the stored value. It's really more a voucher that has a certain value. Then, again, redemption happens at their own point of sale. There's a system they're using for, I don't know, 10 years or something. I'm not sure about that, but they're using their own backend system. The integration makes sure that a voucher code that is recognized by the point of sale system is transferred to Passcreator on pass creation. That is then displayed on the QR code of the pass. There's no stored value, and stored value would mean that you actually used the wallet pass itself as a debit card, which is not the case here. Yeah.
Devon: Was this one of the first customers that Passcreator started working with in Australia, or has there been other activations in Australia as well?
David: No, it was definitely not the first one. We've got a couple of customers in Australia, but they are one of the most notable ones in terms of, basically you have public reputation, or coverage, but I'm not sure about the numbers, but there's car dealerships, there's a couple of membership campaigns in Australia. We might need to reach out to them and ask them if we can talk about it next time. Australia is a pretty strong market for us as well.
Devon: What is kind of the most exciting activation that you got to work on? Maybe it's the customer that you're really excited about, or actually the technology that you got to either develop or integrate with Passcreator.
David: Yeah, a tough question because there's a lot to talk about. One thing I'm really proud of is the product itself. I mean, as I mentioned, it's been quite the journey since ... It's been nine years in the making. I think we can be proud of where we are right now. In terms of customers, obviously BMW's is one very cool project. Another one is the insurance company that we can't really talk about publicly because that's a huge project in terms of number of passes. Yeah, but in general I'd say it's quite the journey that we've been on and we're looking forward to continue it with the Loop team.
Devon: That's great. Now actually that you're a part of the Loop family, what new potential do you see Passcreator being able to reach with our combined efforts?
David: Yeah, primarily I expect us to further accelerate the global growth and provide more value customers of both existing Passcreator customers as well as Loop customers. We're looking forward to integrate the two platforms since there's a lot of capabilities that will be highly synergistic to each other, for example, Loop's capabilities to provide real-time and personalized insights and interaction and push that to the wallet pass holders will enable a whole new type of campaigns for Passcreator customers. The point of sale integration is a constant challenge for us since we started basically because then there's hardware involved and we all know that can make it more complex sometimes. I think Fobi really is an exceptional device that can help there a lot. We're also obviously looking at what we can do with it in the future.
Devon: I want to touch on that point of sale integration just a little bit as well too, for our listeners. From your stance, would you say with pass redemption, is that a big blocker for other pass companies outside of Passcreator as well too, actually having that point of sale integration to redeem the pass? To do multi integration, you're looking at API integrations into different systems that maybe don't support a full integration from passes. What's that benefit of having the Fobi or the smart tap integration with all of these different POS systems?
David: Yeah. I mean, once you got the software right, which I think we did, point of sale integration really is where it gets complex. It's, for a lot of customers, is a challenge because there's no standard system. There's so many different point of sales solutions out there. It's not realistic that we can just go there and say, "Okay, let's build one unique solution that will work on a global scale." But really Fobi is a very great solution that comes into play in between these systems that are already existing. I think that this really is a game changer for a lot of these projects because we can now just tell them, "Okay, there's one more device you need, but you won't even notice it. It'll enable your campaigns and give you the real-time data." That's usually what we're looking for to close the loop for a lot of these campaigns, because with Passcreator alone, you can issue passes, you can do a lot with it, and then we obviously have our own redemption app that requires them to add an additional smartphone or tablet at the point of sale. With Fobi, really that's not necessary anymore.
Devon: That's great. My last question, something that we've been asking all of our guests here, but what's something that you've learned during the pandemic? I know you and your wife just had a kid in the last two weeks. Congratulations on that. Maybe the learning is coming from that now. Yeah, what's something that you're able to enjoy or learn during the pandemic?
David: Yeah. Thank you. I guess kids change everything. Personally, that's a whole new chapter anyway. In general, the pandemic changed so much globally. The most important thing from a business perspective is that especially large companies adapted to remote work so quickly, which helped us to speed up projects with them since we needed to travel less. Before, they required us to basically drive to Hamburg, which is a seven hour car ride for a 30 minute meeting. Then, that got them to sign a deal and then you drive another seven hours home or take a flight and that's just not necessary anymore. Now everybody's used to it. On the other hand, I think I value personal interaction so much more now with all the changes that we made and it's still a people's business, but one that hopefully you will be more digital and provide more flexibility to employees. Personally, I'm really looking forward after the lockdown to have a beer with friends again, which is something that's, I mean, Munich is famous for breweries. Yeah, that's an important part of life.
Devon: Yes, I agree. I agree on that. Well, thank you David, for taking the time to talk with me today. We're very excited to have you join the team and look forward to all the exciting things we're working on now and we'll do in the future together with the past.
David: Great. Yeah. Thanks Dev. Pleasure is all ours. We're really excited about that as well. We're looking forward to the future.
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