October 3, 2012

Passbook and Cineplex

Last night friends and I went to watch Looper, a great movie everyone should watch. I was eager to try out Cineplex' integration with iOS 6 Passbook, so I volunteered to purchase tickets for the group prior to the show. Over all the purchasing experience was easy, and the Passbook integration did what I expected - I no longer had to print a ticket, memorize or print a booking number.

I purchased the tickets from the Cineplex mobile app, I received the usual confirmation email, but also received a "booking ID" ticket in my Passbook. The theatre, Cineplex Southland Mall, Regina, SK, had its main box office closed, with instructions to go to the concession instead, while unusual, I strongly believe this made the experience less painful. We could stand in line for concession AND get our pre-purchased tickets. This was awesome, I encourage Cineplex to always allow pre-purchased tickets to be picked up in this manner, as it removes an entire waiting experience from my visit.

The staff member printed our tickets, holding up Passbook and scanning the booking code, sold us concession, and discounted my concessions scanning my Scene card that the Cineplex app also adds into Passbook.

I thoroughly enjoyed this experience and commend Cineplex for jumping on this opportunity so quickly.

Cineplex scans your booking reference, you get tickets
I have a few suggestions, perhaps these are already being worked on:

  • Allow pre-purchased tickets to be picked up from concession, removing that extra line to pickup tickets from the box office or ticketing machines would make the experience a lot better for customers
  • If this isn't a possiblity, at least let me just walk up to the usher and scan my booking ID there, verify it's in order, and let me enter.
  • Taking the online ticketing experience a bit further, put the tickets directly into my Passbook, not a booking reference.
  • The purchasing aspect of the Cineplex app could use some style tweaks, it feels extremely disjointed from the rest of the application. Some margins on the side and between elements may not make it feel so jammed up, and the alignment of form elements is off.
Purchasing experience could use some style love
While playing with the PassSource - a service that lets you create your custom Passbook items - I discovered there are technical limitations that may exist in companies that could prevent them from jumping on the Passbook band-wagon as fast as they would like.

Linear barcodes, most common version would be a UPC code on the products you buy from the store, were scanned with laser-based scanners that identify the barcode based off the reflected light from the bar code (white reflecting more than black, thus a pattern emerges, which can be decoded into the numbers each bar represents). This process doesn't work on back-lit surfaces, like a phone screen, and the traditional scanners get lost in overload, and can't identify anything at all.

Newer, camera-based scanners don't have this problem, as they take take a picture of the code presented, process that and identify what's in front of them. Due to this form of processing it allows for more complicated bar codes, called matrix bar codes, such as QR Codes. This requirement of two-dimensional scanners, which allow bar codes to be read off items like phone screens, are a hurdle that involves potentially purchasing new scanners.

It will be interesting to see how things evolve en route to emptying my wallet of reward cards, membership cards, and messy paper tickets. Ticketmaster has tried with their app, but the Passbook integration is venue-dependant, which goes back to the barcode scanners being an issue. Glad to see they're committed to it though.

The Passbook experience is nothing new, but it's executed very well giving companies an easy tie-in to bring customers a fantastic experience. Opening and presenting Passbook is so much nicer than having to search my email inbox for reference and booking numbers. I can not wait for AirCanada, or WestJet, to hop on board (no pun intended) very soon.