News

3 Questions with Ron Herman of Sionic Mobile

BY: Cindy Taylor Oct 11, 2016

Source: Fintek News

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FintekNews is pleased to offer our weekly feature column “3 Questions”. Each week, we feature a thought leader within a unique sector of fintech and ask them to answer just 3 questions for our audience in their vernacular. This week we are pleased to introduce you to Ron Herman of Sionic Mobile, a coud-based mobile commerce company based in Atlanta.

Ron Herman
Founder and CEO
Sionic Mobile
www.sionicmobile.com

What does your firm do/offer within the fintech sector?

Sionic Mobile is a cloud-based mobile commerce company that operates the fastest growing merchant marketplace where consumers earn rewards at every mobile checkout, save on personalized products or services and get free perks for paying with their phone.

Our ION Commerce Engine (ICE) underpins corporate clients’ mobile apps reaching more than 150 million consumers in the U.S. We expect the number of marketplace merchant locations, comprised of large chain retailers and small businesses alike, to exceed two million in 2017 making it the largest mobile payments and loyalty network in the nation.

What has been the biggest success & failure in your firm to date?

(Our biggest success was) securing a Full Liability Submitter relationship with J. P. Morgan Chase for processing mobile payments. We were the third company behind Amazon and Uber to accomplish this, and it positions us well to expand with the upcoming Chase Pay and Chase Net platform. Chase Pay is a QR Code-based mobile payment solution offered to Chase Bank and cardholder customers. Chase Net is the result of a long-term contract between Visa and J.P. Morgan, allowing Chase to process its own issued credit cards at a lower cost. Market research shows approximately 24% of U.S. credit cards are issued by Chase.

(Our biggest failure occurred when) we opted to outsource the development of our first generation platform to a local company with offshore developers. The original plan was designed to reduce cost while accelerating the release of our applications in the market. Not only did the project fees quickly exceed budget, but we also ended up scrapping the entire system and hired a team of internal developers. In the end, we wound up settling the dispute through mediation but the experience was terribly distracting and nearly put us out of business.

How do you feel consumers and businesses are adapting to the facet of fintech that your company operates within?

Prior to the release of Apple Pay, neither consumers nor merchants cared too much about mobile payments. Then Google Wallet acquired Softcard’s assets to create Android Pay and Samsung acquired Loop to produce Samsung Pay. Next up, 30-plus big brands formed MCX (Merchant Customer Exchange) with the intent to create their own ACH-based payment rail and reduce credit card fees. Their app, CurrentC, never made it to market.

Fast forward, and we are now embarking on what can only be described as explosive adoption. Merchants and payments companies have finally figured out that most consumers are not inspired to tap their phones to pay at checkout versus pull out a plastic card. To change consumer behavior, merchants and other ecosystem players must wrap three incentives around mobile payments: instant universal rewards, savings on personalized items and services and free perks.

Enter the ability to pay with any iOS or Android phone and any linked bank-issued debit or credit card at millions of places using nothing more than a secure, 3-digit code, and we have a perfect storm.
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Ronald Herman is founder and CEO of Atlanta-based Sionic Mobile. He has 25 years of executive technology leadership experience ranging from early stage start-ups to Fortune 500 companies. Since 2000, Ron has focused exclusively on mobile communications technology, including location-based services, mobile marketing and more recently, cloud computing-based mobile commerce.

Sionic Mobile Provides OnStar Subscribers Instant, Exclusive Savings and Secure Mobile Checkouts

BY: Business Wire October 5, 2016 7:45 AM EDT

Source: Business Wire

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ION Digital Merchant Marketplace Now Featured in AtYourService for GM-Brand Mobile Apps

ATLANTA–Sionic Mobile today announced its premier Merchant Marketplace, featuring 100,000-plus retail and restaurant locations, is now part of the OnStar AtYourService marketplace inside myChevrolet™, myBuick™, myGMC™ and myCadillac™ mobile applications, providing millions of drivers with exclusive savings at nearby merchants. Additionally, OnStar subscribers can now complete fast, secure mobile checkouts powered by Sionic Mobile’s ION Rewards app.

“We continue to grow our OnStar AtYourService ecosystem to create more value for our connected drivers and enhance their ownership experience,” said Mark Lloyd, consumer online officer, Global Connected Customer Experience, GM. “Sionic Mobile is helping us deliver content with every day savings at many national and regional merchants.”

First launched in early 2015, OnStar’s AtYourService mobile commerce platform drives digital engagement between drivers and merchants. Integrating Sionic Mobile’s ION Merchant Marketplace further enhances this engagement, providing OnStar subscribers access to more nationwide retailers, restaurants, spas, hotels and cinemas than any other mobile rewards program in the market today. OnStar subscribers can download the ION Rewards app using the links provided through OnStar AtYourService. After signing up for the free ION Rewards program, with a few simple taps, OnStar subscribers can pay for purchases on their phones and receive real-time savings for every checkout, on top of credit card and other loyalty points.

“GM-brand mobile app users can now conveniently make purchases with their phones and receive instant savings at their favorite merchants nationwide,” said Ronald Herman, CEO and founder, Sionic Mobile. “Working closely with OnStar, the pioneering provider of driver connectivity, safety and concierge services, we’ve created a simple, yet robust user experience that is unique in the automotive industry.”

A full list of retailers included in the premier ION Merchant Marketplace now featured in OnStar AtYourService can be found here: http://www.ionrewards.com/marketplace/. OnStar AtYourService Offers and Connections are available to any subscriber with an OnStar plan in the U.S. To learn more about OnStar AtYourService visit: www.onstar.com.

About Sionic Mobile
Midtown Atlanta-based Sionic Mobile, a cloud-based mobile commerce company, provides white-label mobile pay and loyalty applications to partners and clients delivering rewards, savings and perks to millions of mobile consumers. The award-winning ION Commerce Engine (ICE) and Company-owned iBeacon network drives greater adoption and more frequent app use for partners and clients. The Company also operates the nation’s fastest growing Merchant Marketplace, comprised of large chain retailers and small businesses alike. Merchants pay a small fee when mobile customers pay with their app and the Company shares the fee with clients and partners.

The Company directly engages businesses with ION LoyaltyⓇ web and mobile apps and consumers with the free ION RewardsⓇ app for iOS and Android. Visit www.SionicMobile.com.

Contacts
For Sionic Mobile
Anna Stanley, 678-781-3072
anna@williammills.com

YourHome1Source.com Launches YourHomeSavings for Home Service Professionals

BY: PR News Wire Oct. 4, 2016

Source: PR Newswire

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Connecting home pros with home buyers and owners accepting mobile payments in the field and instant customer rewards

CITRUS HILLS, Fla. — YourHome1Source.com today announced the availability of their advanced mobile loyalty program for home service professionals. The new system allows service pros to go mobile in a matter of minutes, connecting their businesses with mobile-savvy customers across the country. Providers can now leverage a pay-per-use, highly-effective mobile marketing and loyalty platform featuring unlimited advertising; fast, secure mobile payments; and instant customer incentives via the new YourHomeSavings platform.

YourHome1Source.com, the fastest growing home services authority, connects professionals with consumers nationwide through a feature-rich website that provides reliable information and practical resources for homeowners or would-be homeowners. The company partnered with Sionic Mobile to extend these services to a mobile experience for all home service providers, from home inspectors to pest control, or home security to home warranty providers.

Antony Francis, Director of Digital Marketing & Innovation for YourHome1Source.com, said, “Home pros can quickly and easily sign up for YourHomeSavings on YourHome1Source.com. There are no sign up costs or monthly fees, and mobile payments are processed at a low 2% flat rate, plus a 1% marketing fee, only when someone pays for home services with their smartphone or tablet device.”

During account setup, providers simply download the free YourHomeSavings app to get started. The YourHomeSavings platform gives home service professionals powerful visibility and reach to ready-to-spend, mobile-savvy consumers and enables home pros to post ads on the app for free and to accept mobile payments at their businesses or in the field. “Consumers will receive real-time, instant savings by paying home pros with their mobile devices,” Francis added.

Ronald Herman, CEO and founder of Sionic Mobile, said, “YourHome1Source.com’s national Home Service Pro resources are far more comprehensive than any other real estate or home services provider, giving tips and advice across a broad spectrum of home buyer and owners needs. YourHome1Source.com is rapidly becoming the go-to website, and the new mobile experience powered by ION Loyalty gives services professionals a powerful tool to reach millions of consumers and easily and conveniently transact business in the field.”

About YourHome1Source.com
Financial Fitness, LLC developed YourHome1Source.com to provide a Single-Site Resource for consumers seeking practical and reliable information on residential real estate services. Our primary purpose is to help people make informed decisions on matters related to their home. We research a variety of home services, look for service leaders in each category and through our findings and the guidance of these service leaders, we provide consumers with practical advice and cost-saving opportunities in all home services categories. The website is free for consumers and provides an affordable nationwide marketing venue for home service professionals. To learn more, visit: http://www.yourhome1source.com/

Sionic Mobile and YourHome1Source.com Partner to Offer YourHomeSavings App

BY: Business Wire August 16, 2016 10:14 AM EDT

Source: Business Wire

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CITRUS HILLS, Fla. & ATLANTA–YourHome1Source.com, a nationwide network of home service professionals that provides an online informational resource for consumers seeking practical and reliable information on home services, and Sionic Mobile today announced a strategic alliance to deliver a new app, YourHomeSavings. The free app, scheduled for public release on September 6th, gives users tips and advice on home buying and ownership, the ability to find a nearby service pro and pay for the service with their phone or tablet. An industry first, YourHomeSavings also delivers exclusive service pro discounts and instant savings at over 100,000 locations in the ION Merchant Marketplace.

“YourHome1Source.com researches many home services, always looking for the leaders in their respective areas,” explained Sean Stockell, CEO and publisher. “Our findings give consumers practical advice for home-related services. Working with Sionic Mobile aligns with our business philosophy of sharing the most reliable and helpful information we can find, as well as being able to offer cost-saving opportunities for consumers. Having access to the largest mobile merchant marketplace, in addition to our already large list of home service professionals, will be very exciting to our customers.”

Sionic Mobile’s ION Marketplace now offers more nationwide retailers, restaurants, spas, hotels and cinemas than any other mobile rewards program in the market today. Consumers receive real-time incentives for every checkout, and individual companies may determine how they wish to reward app users; either with instant rewards or savings at the register.

Ronald Herman, CEO and founder of Sionic Mobile, said, ”YourHome1Source.com’s national Home Service Pro Marketplace is far more comprehensive than any other real estate or home services provider, giving tips and advice across a broad spectrum of home buyer and owners needs. From realtors, builders and loan providers to pest control, home inspectors and plumbers – YourHome1Source.com is rapidly becoming the go-to website and the new YourHomeSavings app makes finding and paying a home service pro a breeze. Now, saving on services for the home and saving on everyday purchases has never been easier.”

About Sionic Mobile
Midtown Atlanta-based Sionic Mobile provides low-cost payments bundled with mobile marketing and customer loyalty to businesses and instant rewards to consumers at checkout. The Company’s universal rewards, called IONs, help merchants keep good customers coming back more often and are awarded in addition to customers’ credit card points. Consumers may spend IONs (1,000 IONs = $1.00) at any merchant in the ION Marketplace on anything at any time. Businesses use ION LoyaltyⓇ securely online, on mobile devices or through their POS system, eliminating the need for new equipment. Consumers use the free ION RewardsⓇ app for iOS and Android for in-store checkouts.

About YourHome1Source.com
Financial Fitness, LLC developed YourHome1Source.com to provide a Single-Site Resource for consumers seeking practical and reliable information on residential real estate services. Our primary purpose is to help people make informed decisions on matters related to their home. We research a variety of home services, look for service leaders in each category and through our findings and the guidance of these service leaders, we provide consumers with practical advice and cost-saving opportunities in all home services categories. The website is free for consumers and an affordable nationwide marketing venue for home service professionals. To learn more, visit: http://www.yourhome1source.com/.

Contacts
For Sionic Mobile
Anna Stanley, 678-781-3072
anna@williammills.com

Sionic’s Beacon Blast Takes Marketing Tech to Mom­ and­ Pops

BY: John Adams July 26, 2016

Source: Payments Source

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A year from now, Sionic Mobile will have distributed 100,000 free iBeacons to small businesses, a $1 million marketing play the company hopes secures its place among local stores as they start to adopt mobile technologies.

“These businesses can generate foot traffic not just through rewards but through all parameters,” said Ron Herman, CEO of Sionic Mobile.

The Atlanta­-based mobile marketing and payments company is starting a national rollout of Apple iBeacons, with 20,000 beacons expected in the market by the end of the year and another 80,000 in place by next summer.

Sionic will host the technology, and merchants will activate the beacons via the Sionic app and a QR code. The app will provide instructions on how to place beacons in the store. In the coming weeks, Sionic’s consumer app, ION Rewards, and the company’s merchant partner apps will be updated to accommodate iBeacons.

The iBeacons have a five year battery life and a “heartbeat” feature that notifies Sionic if the beacon is not operable or has left its originally deployed location. The merchants then receive an alert from Sionic describing the malfunction.

Apple’s iBeacons use Bluetooth technology to detect when a consumer has entered a predetermined location, typically a store. The system enables improvements in location­-based marketing, payments and other services. Beacons got an early nod from PayPal, and have since become a mobile location­-based marketing staple among larger merchants like Macy’s and Target.

This gives Sionic a chance to push into what it sees as a market gap among the smallest local merchants.
“We’re looking at the SMB segment, but without the ‘M’,” Herman said, adding that hosting the technology will enable stores to deploy and use the iBeacons alongside existing Sionic services with little effort, and the revenue proposition is based on an increase of in­-store activity such as sales; Herman said Sionic is not planning to earn revenue off of the actual beacons.

“They sell what they sell, and the Ion loyalty for merchants is already 99% on the smartphone or tablet,” Herman said.

Consumers will get a welcome message when they enter a store, then receive information on available Sionic rewards. Merchants that use Sionic pay a 1% transaction fee and a minimum 1% reward to the consumer. Sionic Mobile provides a virtual reward currency called “Ions” which can be redeemed within the company’s merchant network. Consumers earn an average of 3% at small businesses and 5% at national merchants.

The beacon deployment also detects the consumer’s distance from the point of sale to enable single­-click payments for transactions that don’t include a gratuity. “You go right to the screen and the transaction happens as fast as it would on Apple Pay,” Herman said

Sionic, like any other mobile tech provider, will be pressured to ensure consumer adoption in a highly competitive market.

“Adoption rates are not driven by the number of users downloading the application, but by how often the user can utilize that application and the value it delivers,” said Tim Sloane, vice president of payments innovation and the director of the Emerging Technologies Advisory Service at Mercator. “Until they are broadly deployed and consistently deliver a noteworthy experience to consumers, beacons will have the same problem as mobile payments, which is low utilization.”

To broaden its appeal among small business, Sionic has made several investments in the past year, including a feature that allows free advertising. the Future of Mobile Payments
And earlier this spring, it finished work on a system that uses a three­-digit code to execute payments on a mobile device.

Sionic Mobile Enhances ION Loyalty for Small Business Merchants with iBeacons

BY: Business Wire July 12, 2016 07:45 AM EDT

Source: Business Wire

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ATLANTA–Sionic Mobile today announced the addition of complimentary iBeacons to its ION Loyalty small business merchants. The ION Loyalty merchant app has been enhanced to monitor the iBeacon with little or no impact on the mobile device battery. In the coming weeks, the Company’s consumer app, ION Rewards, along with partner apps reaching nearly 100 million mobile customers, will be updated to take advantage of the iBeacons.

Beacons represent the next phase of mobile payments and mobile loyalty platforms. Currently 85 of the top 100 retailers have adopted or have plans to adopt beacon technology, and experts anticipate beacons to impact an estimated $44 billion in US retail sales in 2016. Sionic Mobile selected iBeacon technology from Apple, continuing its support of in-store, one-tap checkouts using Apple Watch and enabling small businesses and local merchants to leverage the same mobile technology as larger, big box retail chains, but with no upfront costs or investments.

“Small businesses are the cornerstone of our economy, and we are committed to delivering sophisticated mobile solutions that meet the unique needs of these local merchants,” said Ronald Herman, CEO and founder of Sionic Mobile. “ION Loyalty is simple to use, and eliminates the traditional barriers like rising costs, hardware and software requirements, or simply lack of time and resources that up until now, have prevented many small business owners from taking advantage of the mobile opportunity. In less than 10 minutes, a small business owner can be up and running on ION Loyalty, and with the new iBeacons, the customer experience is far superior to other mobile apps available today.”

ION Loyalty for small businesses has quickly become the preferred alternative to Square, PayPal Here and others, due to its low-cost payment fees, instant customer rewards and unlimited mobile marketing. Merchants are able to process mobile payments quickly and securely on their phone or tablet using a proprietary, three digit code checkout process, eliminating the need for extra hardware.

Herman continued, “To remain competitive and relevant in today’s market, small businesses must have a mobile strategy that goes beyond just payments, and instead enhances the overall customer experience. We have helped thousands of small business owners nationwide go mobile with ION Loyalty. Its incredible to see how quickly these business owners begin seeing results from positive customer feedback regarding the added convenience, an uptick in repeat business because of the instant rewards, as well as an increase in general foot traffic due to the mobile marketing and advertising.”

Sionic Mobile operates the nation’s premiere merchant marketplace representing more than 100,000 retail and restaurant locations nationwide. ION Rewards users earn IONs – on top of credit card points – that spend like cash every time they checkout. It is the only universal rewards program allowing consumers to earn and spend rewards with zero restrictions at any merchant in the ION Marketplace.

To learn more, please visit www.IONLoyalty.com.

About Sionic Mobile
Midtown Atlanta-based Sionic Mobile provides low-cost payments bundled with mobile marketing and customer loyalty to businesses and instant rewards to consumers at checkout. The Company’s universal rewards, called IONs, help merchants keep good customers coming back more often and are awarded in addition to customers’ credit card points. Consumers may spend IONs (1,000 IONs = $1.00) at any merchant in the ION Marketplace on anything at any time. Businesses use ION LoyaltyⓇ securely online, on mobile devices or through their POS system, eliminating the need for new equipment. Consumers use the free ION RewardsⓇ app for iOS and Android for in-store checkouts.

Contacts For Sionic Mobile
Anna Stanley, 678-781-3072
anna@williammills.com

Sionic Mobile Launches ION Rewards for Apple Watch™ During WWDC

BY: Business Wire June 13, 2016 EDT

Source: Business Wire

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Sionic Mobile, in conjunction with the opening day of the annual Apple® Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco, today announced that ION Rewards for Apple Watch is available for immediate free download in the App Store. For each mobile checkout, users instantly earn IONs that spend like cash and can be used at more than 100,000 merchant locations nationwide, including big-brand retailers and a fast-growing number of small business merchants.

See it in action: https://youtu.be/7xlozNzsXBA

Sionic Mobile’s ION Rewards for Apple Watch leverages the company’s proprietary, three-digit checkout process resulting in faster, easier and more secure mobile payments. Through iBeacons, users are digitally greeted and invited to check-in on their Apple Watch at ION Rewards small business merchants. When it is time to pay, users simply tap PAY on their Apple Watch then show the code to the cashier.

Ronald Herman, CEO and founder of Sionic Mobile, said, “We’re continuing the one-tap precedent set by Apple Pay™ now available in many large retailers. Unlike Apple Pay, however, smaller merchants process ION mobile payments and rewards using their smartphone or tablet, so there is no new equipment to buy or manage. And in late July, we will begin providing complimentary iBeacons to all of our small business merchants, making mobile checkouts even faster.”

The ION solution works with any credit or debit card, any Android or iOS mobile device and offers lower-cost payments exclusively through J.P. Morgan Chase. In addition to the cost savings gained from lower credit card fees, and requiring no additional hardware to be purchased, small business owners gain unlimited mobile advertising and a self-branded eGift Card as an ION merchant. These owners can now provide exceptionally fast, secure mobile checkouts to Apple Watch users, while instantly rewarding them for every purchase.

ION Rewards users earn IONs – on top of credit card points – every time they checkout. It is the only rewards program allowing consumers to earn and spend rewards like cash with zero restrictions at any merchant in the ION marketplace.

About Sionic Mobile
Midtown Atlanta-based Sionic Mobile provides low-cost payments bundled with mobile marketing and customer loyalty to businesses and instant rewards to consumers at checkout. The Company’s universal rewards, called IONs, help merchants keep good customers coming back more often and are awarded in addition to customers’ credit card points. Consumers may spend IONs (1,000 IONs = $1.00) at any merchant in the ION Marketplace on anything at any time. Businesses use ION LoyaltyⓇ securely online, on mobile devices or through their POS system, eliminating the need for new equipment. Consumers use the free ION RewardsⓇ app for iOS and Android for in-store checkouts.

Contacts
For Sionic Mobile
Anna Stanley, 678-781-3072
anna@williammills.com

Sionic Mobile’s ION Loyalty Three-Digit Checkout with Instant Rewards Gains Momentum with Small Businesses

BY: PYMNTS May 24, 2016

Source: Pymnts

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Sionic Mobile today announced its proprietary, mobile-to-mobile,
three-digit checkout process is gaining traction among small business
owners. Requiring no new hardware or upfront investment, ION Loyalty
provides small business owners with mobile checkouts that are faster,
easier and safer than cash or plastic – a preferred alternative to
Square, PayPal Here and others – along with instant customer rewards.

Ricky Hobbs, owner and master stylist at Cut Atlanta, cited ION Loyalty
as a vital component to his expansion. “We recently acquired a larger
salon, adding eight new stylists to accommodate our growing clientele.
Previously, we used Square and were paying higher credit card fees. It
also took much longer to complete a client checkout. With ION Loyalty,
we pay a flat 1% payment fee and reward our clients 1% in IONs at
checkout. Even combining the payment fees and customer rewards, we are
paying less with the ION program than we were with Square. It is saving
us time and money. Our clients love the super-fast, three-digit code
checkouts and they love getting IONs even more.”

Sionic Mobile operates the nation’s premiere merchant marketplace
representing more than 100,000 retail and restaurant locations
nationwide. ION Rewards users earn IONs – on top of credit card points –
that spend like cash every time they checkout. It is the only universal
rewards program allowing consumers to earn and spend rewards with zero
restrictions at any merchant in the ION marketplace.

In addition to low-cost payments and instant customer rewards, small
business owners gain unlimited mobile advertising and a self-branded
eGift Card program as an ION Loyalty merchant.

“Like most restaurants and small businesses, chargebacks are a costly
problem that can really impact the bottom line,” said Keith Morrison,
general manager of Zocalo Mexican Restaurant and Cantina. “ION Loyalty
has advanced security measures and fraud prevention tools in place that
protect both the restaurant and our customers from fraudulent activity.
The mobile-to-mobile payments are faster and more secure than swiping
plastic cards and also provide an alternative to expensive EMV hardware
upgrades.”

“One of the most common complaints about mobile payments is the
cumbersome, slow checkout process,” said Ronald Herman, CEO and founder
of Sionic Mobile. “We’ve addressed this issue with our proprietary,
mobile-to-mobile, three-digit code checkout process. ION Loyalty small
business merchants may now complete mobile transactions in one-to-two
seconds, and are protected against fraud and other security concerns.

“Previously, there were very few options for small business owners who
wanted to engage with their customers through the mobile channel. These
owners had to either implement an expensive mobile payments platform
typically requiring an overhaul of their POS system, or they could adopt
a third-party mobile loyalty program requiring customers to download
multiple apps or carry yet another rewards card. We’ve eliminated the
obstacles and given small business owners a simple yet sophisticated
option that requires no upfront investment, is faster, more secure, and
perhaps most importantly, rewards customers in a manner that truly
builds loyalty and encourages repeat business.”

To learn more, please visit www.IONLoyalty.com.

About Sionic Mobile
Midtown Atlanta-based Sionic Mobile provides low-cost payments bundled
with mobile marketing and customer loyalty to businesses and instant
rewards to consumers at checkout. The Company’s universal rewards,
called IONs, help merchants keep good customers coming back more often
and are awarded in addition to customers’ credit card points. Consumers
may spend IONs (1,000 IONs = $1.00) at any merchant in the ION
Marketplace on anything at any time. Businesses use ION LoyaltyⓇ
securely online, on mobile devices or through their POS system,
eliminating the need for new equipment. Consumers use the free ION
RewardsⓇ app for iOS and Android for in-store checkouts.

To the Cloud and Back: Sionic’s Mobile Model Sidesteps Terminal Tech

BY: John Adams May 3, 2016

Source: Payments Source

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Eager to appease EMV­weary stores, Sionic Mobile is finishing tests on a system that uses a three­ digit code to execute payments via mobile devices.

“We’ve had zero fraud in beta testing this system,” said Ron Herman, CEO of Sionic Mobile, adding the new system is “absolutely” an alternative to EMV. “When we say we’re better than EMV, that’s because there’s still fraud in EMV.”

Either a consumer or merchant can initiate a checkout, and Sionic’s fraud protection system generates a three digit code that authorizes the transaction. Both smartphones—the consumer’s and the merchant’s—are geocoded for a short time, usually less than 10 minutes, to facilitate the transaction between them.

Calling the checkout process mobile­to­cloud­to­mobile, Sionic tokenizes consumers credit and debit card information through JPMorgan Chase, and nothing is stored on the mobile phones or in Sionic’s app. “We have a relationship with Chase as a full­liability fraud submitter,” Herman said. “If we can’t detect fraud up front, we’re on the hook for that transaction.”

Sionic Mobile is leaning on its existing loyalty program and security protocols to promote the new checkout system. “Merchant participation in the loyalty program is crucial,” Herman said.

Under Sionic’s model, merchants pay a 1% payment fee and a minimum 1% reward to the consumer. Sionic Mobile rewards a virtual currency called “Ions” which can be redeemed at the company’s merchant network. Consumers earn an average of 3% at small businesses, and 5% at national merchants. Sionic recently added a feature that allows free advertising to bolster its appeal to small businesses.

Security is provided by “selfie authentication” on the front end and a 15­point fraud detection system that the company updated after it noticed spikes in fraud after data breaches at national retailers. “We’re confident that’s better than EMV,” Herman said.

Sionic is also betting that using the consumer and retailers’ mobile phones to execute transactions will be easier for both parties than a combination of a mobile phone and a merchant’s point of sale terminal.

“It’s mobile to mobile, so the payment gets processed in a second,” said Keith Morrison, manager of Zocalo, an Atlanta­area restaurant that’s using Sionic’s three digit checkout code, who added the restaurant has had problems in the past with plastic credit cards getting lost, which is a hassle for the staff and consumers.

Zocalo does not accept EMV chip cards right now, though it is considering its options.

Sionic Mobile is not alone in pitching mobile apps as an EMV workaround. MyCheck offers an ordering and payment app designed as an alternative to EMV for restaurants.

Still, merchants that accept cards will need to accept EMV as a baseline, said Tim Sloane, vice president of payments innovation at Mercator Advisory Group.

“Merchants planning that investment then need to consider if mobile engagement is important for their customer base,” Sloane said. “If it is then clearly they need to start considering mobile solutions.”

There are also different mobile models, which won’t appeal to every consumer, Sloane said.
“A mobile app caters to a different customer than NFC mobile payments,” he said, adding NFC caters to walk­in customers of infrequent shoppers while an app targets repeat and persistent shoppers.

Mobile and multichannel solutions help businesses succeed

BY: Phil Britt Apr 29, 2016

Source: KM World

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As brands, hotels, goods manufacturers and others increase their outreach via mobile and multichannel messaging, advertising and sales, knowledge management is an increasingly important element of those strategies. One of the biggest KM challenges for retailers is tracking inventory across the supply chain.

GameStop, with 4,000 stores in the United States and an active online business of buying, selling and trading video games, faces the challenge of many retailers—inventory that might be desired in one location, but not physically available there.

Although the retailer had more than 10,000 games and a well-stocked warehouse that could offer ship-to-store convenience for customers, its systems did not show what games might be available in the individual stores, because once sold to or exchanged at the store, the game might stay there rather than returning to the warehouse, says Bill Graham, the company’s director of multichannel integration.

“Like any multichannel retailer with a large number of stores, we had a robust buy online, fulfill direct [in-store] business,” Graham explains. “But due to the nature of our business, with buy, sell, trade, purchase and resale, it was very hard to keep track of inventory and the supply chain spread out across all of our stores and in our warehouse. We always want to meet our customer needs by offering the best selection.”

So the retailer needed a new e-commerce ordering system that would enable in-store employees and online consumers to have visibility throughout the entire GameStop system, enabling a Florida customer, for example, to purchase a game that was only available at a store in Oregon.

The company started by developing a proof-of-concept system in 2014 with a vendor that Graham declined to name, then tested it in early 2015, rolling out the system to 250 stores in March of that year.

Following the success of those efforts, the full rollout started earlier this year and was completed by the end of February, Graham says, describing the company’s newly expanded ship from store program as an “absolute success.”

“The hardest part was getting started,” Graham adds. “The stores are very excited about it. It’s a great customer service opportunity as well. The second we turned it on, we had our 4,000 stores and thousands of active online customers who had twice the selection they had previously. You can imagine the impact. We’re really pleased with the success of the program.”

Customer retention
McBride Research Labs, a manufacturer of premium and natural hair care products sold through a distributor network to beauty salons and individuals, was looking at ways to increase customer retention, an issue the company had researched for many years, according to Terry Armstrong, McBride’s VP of sales and operations. “If you lose too many customers, you will be out of business soon.”

Customer retention is essential because the loss of one salon customer typically costs McBride $7,000 to $8,000, a significant sum for the small company. One of the major aspects of any successful retention program is to have the knowledge management to be able to track customer activity, according to Armstrong.

Another essential element is mobile capability because McBride’s distributor network spends plenty of time on the road selling to salon chains and independent beauty parlors as well as to some individuals.

After examining several different programs, McBride chose Sionic Mobile’s Ion program, which enables McBride to provide merchant-branded gift cards for a variety of retailers and other rewards to its distributor network, which in turn can offer those incentives to their most loyal customers. The salons can participate as well, offering Ion rewards to its most loyal customers.

The Ion program tracks all customer activity, rewards, redemptions and other data essential for the program to be successful, and allows McBride to offer targeted rewards. If customer retention lags in a certain area, McBride can accelerate the Ions (points) it offers to customers in that region.

“What we were presented allows us easily to monitor all of the customer activity,” Armstrong says. “If we want more sales in the Northeast, we can offer more rewards in that area. The primary metric the program offers us is the retention rate.”

McBride completed the beta test of the program earlier this year and rolled it out to its entire sales network at the beginning of February. Although no hard figures are available yet on the success of the program, Armstrong says the distributor in the beta provided positive feedback.

Crown Reef Resort was acquired by Vacation Myrtle Beach Resorts in 2013, which has spent more than $13 million to upgrade the property, build a water park and add other amenities. Matt Klugman, director of sales and marketing for Vacation Myrtle Beach, says, “We’ve always looked for better and more efficient ways to deliver data and analytics to our people so that they could make the right decisions. We have worked with Fuel for many years.”

Fuel’s GuestExpress Mobile App was implemented at the beginning of this year and is already showing benefits, with more expected as Crown Reef executives familiarize themselves with the way to use the customer-facing app to drive revenue through flash sales, room upgrades and in-app guest service purchases. The app also enables guests to check via their smartphones while also researching detailed room and property information and receiving push notifications from the resort.

“It’s a great tool for the customer; it’s a great way for us to enhance the customer experience,” Klugman says. “From a marketing perspective, we can connect with customers on a more personal basis.”

Customers who use the app are also less likely to go to a third-party site, like Kayak, to book a room, Klugman adds. A third party collects a portion of the revenue, so using the app enables the hotelier to keep all of the revenue. With the app, Crown Reef can track the customer’s behavior, how they navigate, what incentives tend to prompt conversion from prospect to booked guest and other information, according to Klugman.

“We are using [the app] to increase our exposure with potential guests,” Klugman adds. “The marketing is shifting. People want something where they can just press a button.”

The app makes it simple for Coral Reef to collect information about the guest’s preferences regarding his or her visits to the resort, enabling it to customize offers, incentives and discounts. Klugman adds that the resort is still in the early stages of offering the app, so he expects other opportunities to use the knowledge the technology provides as he and other resort execs become more seasoned in working with it.

Mobile campaign ups ice cream sales in Ecuador
Geolocation knowledge management is an increasingly important element in the mobile/multichannel strategies of many companies from small to large.

Unilever, the multinational conglomerate that manufactures everything from soap to high-end ice cream, wanted to increase the awareness of and the traffic to its ice cream stores in Ecuador, which offer Unilever’s Magnum premium ice cream.

The goal was to attract customers and offer them an experience that would prompt them to return. But Unilever didn’t have the geolocation or the targeting expertise to attract its preferred audience—teenagers and young adults at least 15 years of age who are near Magnum stores in Quito and Guayaquil, Ecuador, according to Monica Albarracin, brand manager of ice cream at Unilever.

The geo-located banner ads were the work of Adsmovil, which uses geographic data and publisher relationships to find Spanish- and English-speaking customers. When smartphone owners who were reading publications appropriate to younger people came within range of a Magnum store, they were shown a geo-targeted rich-media banner ad inviting them to design their own ice cream bars and then pick them up at the shop. The ads invited them to select flavors and toppings and even to name their customized ice cream bars.

Out of more than 1 million impressions delivered, the ads received more than 15,000 clicks. The average click-through rate (CTR) was 2.01 percent—four times the average rich-media CTR.

The ad campaign doubled the company’s record for the number of ice cream bars sold in a Magnum store in a single day. Additionally, in-store sales volume increased by 14 percent over the brand average. The results were strong enough to convince Magnum to double its budget and repeat the campaign for the following year.

Knowledge management will continue to be at the core of programs and services that companies adopt in their mobile and multichannel strategies as they look to connect with and sell through the channel that customers find most convenient, which several studies show is increasingly dominated by mobile.

FinTech Atlanta Task Force Names Founding Members

BY: Metro Atlanta CEO Staff April 20th, 2016

Source: Metro Atlanta CEO

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FinTech Atlanta, the financial technology task force founded in 2015 by the Metro Atlanta Chamber, the Technology Association of Georgia and American Transaction Processors Coalition, has named the 20+ companies who will serve as founding members of the organization. These companies met in late February to begin the task force’s work to develop Atlanta as the recognized global capital of the FinTech industry.

“FinTech companies deliver the financial infrastructure every organization utilizes to manage their operation, from accounting to payments and beyond. FinTech solutions power the global economy.” said FinTech Atlanta’s chair, Barry McCarthy, executive vice president of Network and Security Solutions at First Data. “Atlanta has quietly become the global capital of this critically important sector. Through the FinTech Atlanta initiative, I am confident Atlanta will become the recognized global home of FinTech by 2020, just as New York and London are the recognized headquarters of finance.”

The task force will have three main goals: to recruit companies, capital and talent in the FinTech industry; to retain our existing companies and workforce, and to expand our presence in the industry via organic growth and by extending the FinTech ecosystem. The Task Force will do this by developing a skilled workforce, fostering innovation, promoting the story, and working with legislators to make Atlanta and Georgia the best place to conduct business.

FinTech Atlanta is modeled after MAC’s successful Mobility Task Force that launched in 2012. Today, Atlanta is home to more than 90 FinTech companies employing 30,000 people. Additionally, 85 billion transactions, or more than 70 percent of U.S. credit card swipes, debit card payments and gift card purchases, flow through Atlanta, according to ATPC.

“Metro Atlanta’s strong density in FinTech – which includes established corporations to emerging startups – is a major driver for job growth and innovation,” said MAC President and CEO Hala Moddelmog. “The FinTech Task Force serves as a powerful voice for growing and sustaining the region’s preeminent financial technology ecosystem and adding jobs to our economy.”

“Georgia’s FinTech companies process over 118 billion transactions per year; this is one of Georgia’s best kept secrets,” said Tino Mantella, President/CEO of the Technology Association of Georgia. “TAG and the TAG FinTech Society welcomes the formation of this new group and we look forward to strengthening and increasing its dominance as a global FinTech leader.”

“If Georgia’s public and private sectors continue to come together in support of the industry through initiatives like the Task Force, in less than a decade we will see Georgia’s Transaction Alley emerge as the center of gravity for all things FinTech,” said ATPC Executive Director H. West Richards. “Transaction Alley with be the global go-to resource for FinTech innovation, education and talent.”

The Atlanta-based organizations who are founding members of FinTech Atlanta include:

American Transaction Processors Coalition

Bain and Company

Cardlytics

The Coca-Cola Company

ControlScan

Delta Air Lines

Elavon

Equifax

First Data

FIS

Fiserv

Georgia Department of Economic Development

Georgia Tech

Global Payments

Holland & Knight

The Home Depot

InComm

Ingenico

Kabbage

Metro Atlanta Chamber

Merchant e-Solutions

NCR

Noro-Moseley Partners

Paymetric

Patientco

Priority Payment Systems

Russell Reynolds

Sionic Mobile

Spencer Stuart

SunTrust

Technology Association of Georgia

TSYS

TTV Capital

University System of Georgia

UPS

Venture Atlanta

Worldpay

WNA Ltd.

Sionic Mobile Releases White-Label, Digital Merchant Marketplace API for Partners

BY: Business Wire April 05, 2016 07:45 AM EDT

Source: Business Wire

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ATLANTA–Sionic Mobile today announced the availability of a new white-label version of its ION Digital Merchant Marketplace. Designed to integrate with existing mobile applications, the application-programming interface (API) gives partners’ app users access to Sionic Mobile’s premiere mobile rewards marketplace representing more than 100,000 merchant locations nationwide.

By partnering with Sionic Mobile, companies may utilize their licensed API to drive greater adoption and more frequent usage of their own mobile apps. It can also be used as a powerful customer acquisition and retention tool by enabling users to make purchases and receive real-time incentives for every checkout at big brand national retailers, restaurants, spas, hotels and cinemas. Companies may determine how they wish to reward their app users, whether in points or instant savings at the point of sale.

“Sionic Mobile is committed to helping businesses leverage innovative technology and the mobile channel to better engage and connect with customers,” said Spencer White, chief operating officer and executive vice president of Sionic Mobile. “Leveraging our new API allows companies to offer new and unique rewards opportunities to current app users, and cultivate adoption of new ones. Access to our digital mobile marketplace provides an immediate and vast footprint for our partners.”

A full list of retailers included in the ION Merchant Marketplace can be found here: http://www.ionrewards.com/marketplace/.

About Sionic Mobile
Midtown Atlanta-based Sionic Mobile provides low-cost payments bundled with mobile marketing and customer loyalty to businesses and instant rewards to consumers at checkout. The Company’s universal rewards, called IONs, help merchants keep good customers coming back more often and are awarded in addition to customers’ credit card points. Consumers may spend IONs (1,000 IONs = $1.00) at any merchant in the ION Marketplace on anything at any time. Businesses use ION LoyaltyⓇ securely online, on mobile devices or through their POS system, eliminating the need for new equipment. Consumers use the free ION RewardsⓇ app for iOS and Android for in-store checkouts.

Contacts For Sionic Mobile
Anna Stanley, 678-781-3072
anna@williammills.com

A Guide for Small Businesses: How to Launch a Mobile Loyalty Program

BY: RONALD D. HERMAN March 27, 2016

Source: Small Biz Resources

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Mobile plays an integral role in almost every aspect of consumers’ lives and has forever changed the way society interacts, lives, works, plays, shops and conducts business. In 2015 for the first time, app usage surpassed desktop usage and now accounts for more than half of all U.S. digital media consumption. With more than half of consumers in North America expressing interest in making payments with their phones, research indicates that mobile payment transactions could reach as high as $5.4 billion by 2018.

Consumers not only expect, but also demand mobile-based solutions that offer immediate, real-time results. In the past 24 months, major launches including Apple Pay, Chase Pay, Android Pay, Walmart Pay and most recently, Samsung Pay have quickly propelled the mobile movement, forever changing the way merchants interact with consumers. For many retailers, new business and growth are contingent on mobile engagement of customers. Today’s merchants are challenged to provide customers with a seamless purchasing experience regardless of the location or type of device used to complete the transaction.

Despite the overwhelming evidence pointing to mobile as the future, small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) lag behind the rest of the industry and are the slowest segment to adopt mobile technology. Exorbitant fees, expensive hardware upgrades, complex technology integrations and rising security threats are just a few of the perceived obstacles preventing many business owners and the vast opportunities mobile affords. Ironically, many of these perceived barriers are false, and when implemented strategically, launching a mobile commerce platform should not only boost revenue, but also reduce costs and create consumer loyalty.

Dispelling Mobile Misperceptions
Lack of resources, time, or capital to invest into the mobile channel combined with the growing costs associated with upgrading point-of-sale terminals have prevented many SMBs from taking advantage of the vast opportunities afforded by mobile. The majority of mobile commerce platforms on the market are designed for larger, big-box retailer and are unfortunately not feasible for most small businesses to implement.

However, advances in technology have made mobile platforms accessible to small businesses. Solutions designed specifically for SMBs should seamlessly integrate with existing POS hardware and software, require little to no technical knowledge to implement and leverage automated processes, requiring minimal time and resources to actually launch and maintain mobile campaigns. In fact, many of these solutions can be installed and operational in a matter of hours. These solutions have bridged the gap between merchants and the mobile movement, eliminating the previous barriers to entry impacting the majority of the SMB market.

For small businesses, integration of a mobile commerce platform with existing software is critical to ensuring an immediate return-on-investment, and also a seamless and positive user experience. And while the convenience of mobile payments is a major benefit, payments alone will not yield the adoption and usage levels needed to be successful. For small businesses in particular, mobile must move beyond payments and include value-add features and functionality that strengthen relationships with customers and build brand loyalty.

Building Brand Loyalty
Data recently compiled by SCORE revealed that it costs a small business nearly seven times more money to attract a new customer compared to the cost of cultivating a relationship with an existing one, and savvy business owners know that fact. Building a loyal customer base is a priority for every small business, and this remains true when implementing a mobile platform. Consumer adoption and usage of mobile is directly related to the value-adds and benefits received. For this reason, integrating a mobile loyalty component is critical to ensuring customers not only download, but also continue to use small businesses’ mobile apps.

In today’s market, the number of loyalty programs available to consumers is overwhelming. Research has proven the best and most effective loyalty programs are simple, easy to use and provide a valuable incentive. To garner the most success, loyalty programs should have very few, if any, requirements and restrictions regarding when and where users can redeem earned rewards. Additionally, rewards should be available to the customer immediately for redemption to avoid frustration and confusion over pending rewards. In a 2015 ranking of the best and worst loyalty programs, Spirit Airlines was ranked the worst program primarily because of the long list of restrictions and 90-day expiration mandate, giving users just 3 months to use or lose earned rewards.

Offering a robust loyalty and rewards program is perhaps the most critical component for ensuring a successful mobile channel. Complicated, confusing, programs will hold little to no value, even possibly driving customers away.

Attracting and Engaging Customers
Mobile provides small businesses yet another opportunity to attract customers and increase foot traffic. When selecting a mobile commerce platform, look for features designed to promote your business to nearby customers, including unlimited mobile advertising and location-based mobile offers. Integrating digital gift cards is another effective tool to reach new markets, provide additional value to customers and further generate awareness.

Research indicates that mobile offers are redeemed 10 times more frequently than print coupons. More than 50 percent of consumers have indicated they would be more likely to shop at a nearby store if they received a relevant offer on their phone. For small business owners, it is imperative that mobile platforms have the ability to send location-based, customized, tailored offers to customers. This not only provides yet another user incentive, but is also an opportunity to promote high margin products. To be effective, these ads and offers should be optimized for mobile devices and deliver a compelling yet concise message with a clear call to action.

Security
Finally, built in security, fraud prevention and data security measures are essential when selecting a mobile commerce platform. Look for a platform that is designed to protect small businesses and guarantees while guaranteeing against chargebacks. One advantage of mobile-based payments is a decreased fraud liability for merchants. This is an especially important in today’s environment with the increasing number of high-profile retail credit card breaches. Ensure the platform has safeguards against fraudulent activity, limiting the small businesses’ exposure to risk.

Conclusion
In many ways mobile is the new frontier for small business owners. At the heart of the small business industry is the unique connection between the merchant and its customers. Mobile offers yet another channel to engage current customers, reward loyal patrons and connect with the greater community, generating brand awareness and attracting the next-generation of consumers. As the mobile movement continues to surge, small businesses can no longer afford to simply watch and wait from the sidelines.

Sionic Mobile’s Award-Winning ION Loyalty® and ION Rewards® Apps Enhance Social Experience Between Small Businesses and Their Customers

BY: Business Wire March 02, 2016 8:58 AM EST

Source: Business Wire

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New features include hassle-free, mobile-to-mobile checkouts, instant rewards and reviews, merchant-branded eGift Cards and bonus IONs shared among friends

ATLANTA–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Sionic Mobile today announced the newest releases of its ION Loyalty app for small business merchants and ION Rewards app for consumers; both available for free download in the App Store and Play.

These latest releases further enhance the social experience, by cloaking the physical payment (plastic cards stay tucked safely away), while adding the ability to connect and share with other ION users. A simple, one-tap rating feature (coming soon) encourages customers to rate the experience after checkout.

“Having built the nation’s premier mobile rewards marketplace with more than 100,000 big-brand locations where consumers can earn and spend IONs, we’ve turned our attention to address the needs of small business merchants,” said Ronald Herman, Sionic Mobile CEO. “We’ve made it even easier for business owners and managers to connect with their customers using their mobile device, creating a more intimate and social experience.”

In addition to hassle-free mobile checkouts, ION helps small businesses attract new customers through unlimited advertising in the mobile marketplace and by offering their own eGift Cards for customers to send to their friends, family and coworkers – all conveniently through their phones.

“We’ve simplified the mobile payment process, giving business owners the ability to accept phone-to-phone payments using a simple, 3-digit code,” said Herman. “ION Loyalty users can now side-step the confusing maze of mobile payment offerings from Apple, Android, Samsung, PayPal and others and focus on what they do best – serving their customers. Additionally, customers earn instant rewards following every checkout, providing business owners with yet another opportunity to build brand loyalty and engage patrons.”

“This system is a catalyst for socially marketing small business merchants in the ION marketplace, as well as driving business in the door,” Herman explained. “Unlike ratings from Yelp or TripAdvisor, which may not be tied to actual customer checkouts, ION customer ratings will influence decisions of potential customers to visit that merchant based on confirmed experiences.”

ION merchants will have access to their business’ ratings and reviews within the ION Loyalty mobile app and in the online Small Business Center. There, merchants will be able to evaluate their ratings to gain valuable insight on their business operations, food and staff, and determine ways to improve the overall customer experience and increase social interaction.

Consumers earn IONs that spend like cash every time they checkout with their phones, on top of credit card and other loyalty points. It is the only universal loyalty program, allowing consumers to earn and spend rewards with zero restrictions at any ION merchant. All mobile-to-mobile payments are processed securely and exclusively by J.P. Morgan Chase.

A full list of retailers included in the premiere ION Merchant Marketplace is available here: http://www.ionrewards.com/marketplace/.

To learn more, please visit www.IONRewards.com.

See it in action. Find out how it works, click here to watch the new ION Rewards video: http://bit.ly/1R9PEr6 #ThisIsIONRewards

About Sionic Mobile
Midtown Atlanta-based Sionic Mobile provides low-cost payments bundled with mobile marketing and customer loyalty to businesses and instant rewards to consumers at checkout. The Company’s universal rewards, called IONs, help merchants keep good customers coming back more often and are awarded in addition to customers’ credit card points. Consumers may spend IONs (1,000 IONs = $1.00) at any merchant in the ION Marketplace on anything at any time or they may donate their IONs to a local charity or cause. Businesses use ION LoyaltyⓇ securely online, on mobile devices or through their POS system, eliminating the need for new equipment. Consumers use the free ION RewardsⓇ app for iOS and Android for in-store checkouts.

Contacts
For Sionic Mobile
Anna Stanley, 678-781-3072
anna@williammills.com

Atlanta’s ‘Transaction Alley’: US Payment Processing Capital

BY: TASNIM SHAMMA February 15, 2016

Source: WABE

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Listen on WABE

Every time you swipe, tap or insert your card and even pay with your phone, there’s a good chance the transaction will be processed here in Georgia.

That’s because nearly 70 percent of all payment card transactions are processed here, and more than half of U.S. financial technology firms are based in the Atlanta area.

Tino Mantella, president of the Technology Association of Georgia, said you can expect to see more financial tech companies setting up shop in the Atlanta area in 2016.

“Our Fin Tech board has been around for a long time before Fin Tech was cool, and now we’re the payments capital,” Mantella said at TAG’s annual FinTech conference, where more than 500 people gathered to discuss the future of the industry. “A new term is ‘Transaction Alley.’ We’re gaining traction and the combination of talent and capital and innovation is going to get stronger and stronger here.”

Several big names in the field already call Atlanta home, including Pindrop, Bitpay, Worldpay, NCR, InComm and Global Payments. And the list is growing: Brazilian payment-processing firm Merchant e-Solutions has announced it’s moving its U.S. headquarters from Silicon Valley to Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood, adding 140 jobs.

Payments Capital

According to TAG, Georgia first began to attract financial technology companies in 1987, when state lawmakers lifted caps on credit card interest rates and annual fees of 18% and $12, respectively.

There are now approximately 100 financial technology firms in the Atlanta area, employing more than 300,000 people, according to TAG’s latest report.

Sarah Tourville is a member of the Greater Alpharetta Tech Network’s board of directors. The group is located just off Georgia-400.

“GA-400 is called the payments corridor of the world, I believe,” Tourville said. “You’ve just got so many new, growing, very disruptive technologies coming out to really impact and revolutionize what’s happening in payments.”

New Technologies

According to TAG, there are now approximately 100 financial technology firms in the Atlanta area, employing more than 300,000 people.
CREDIT COURTESY OF TAG
One such “disruptive” technology is the growing use of mobile wallets, which use cellphones instead of credit cards during checkout to make purchases. Spencer White is chief operating officer of Sionic Mobile, based in midtown Atlanta, which operates a free mobile rewards program called ION and promotes mobile wallets.

“You’re seeing hardware is changing with merchants en masse and the need for consumers to change ingrained behaviors from swipe to tap,” White said. “So that opens up the opportunity to interject a new and superior behavior of using mobile to pay and the additional enticement of ION Rewards gives them a value proposition to move in that direction.”

He predicts the introduction of Samsung Pay will lead to greater adoption of mobile wallets this year because it’s not as limited to where it can be accepted and stores are upgrading their payment terminals.

Attracting Growth

Haskell Garfinkel of the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, the keynote speaker at TAG’s annual FinTech conference, said “Atlanta has all the right ingredients” for a strong financial technology innovation hub. That’s because the city has strong private-public partnerships, private companies focused on innovation, capital and a strong university system.

Garfinkel said partnering with universities would be key to the industry’s future growth.

“As much as things happen in the labs at companies like Google and Apple and Amazon, they happen even earlier in academic research,” Garfinkel said.

He also noted that companies will need to work more closely to get private dollars for research and development.

TAG’s FinTech conference focused on mobile payments, security trends and new technologies, but also ways to increase access capital for underserved groups.

Rajesh Koppula founded Lend Lift in 2013. It helps banks and lenders manage their risk and provide financial literacy tools for consumers. It’s also developing a scorecard for banks to use for consumers without access to credit, so banks and lenders can provide these customers with alternative payment options.

“I had the opportunity to start this in New York or outside of the U.S. as well, but I felt like Atlanta is a great place to start,” Koppula said. “It’s got a vibrant Fin Tech community and very good schools.”