Ron Herman Executive Profile: The Rewards of Loyalty... >>
Ron Herman grew up appreciating the benefits of loyalty and hard work. So it comes as no surprise that he is enjoying great success as the CEO and founder of Sionic Mobile, one of the most innovative companies in the electronic mobile rewards and loyalty space. Starting with the premise that mobile personal devices would disrupt all future human transactions, Ron’s Atlanta-based company has focused on compensating customers for making mobile purchases at merchants via accumulated rewards – called IONs – and is today the nation’s largest mobile rewards marketplace.
Born in Saginaw, Michigan, Ron grew up in the small farming community of Frankenmuth, about one hour north of Detroit. As in early America, everything was about the land. His family’s 44 acre farm was two and a half miles outside of town, and they grew the majority of their own food. “I grew to love it,” Ron says, “and to this day I keep a working garden at my house. It’s gratifying.”
Most of Ron’s neighbors and friends were farmers, and farmers, Ron will tell you, have a very distinct work ethic. “Everything depends on you and there isn’t anyone else to do the work so you just get used to it,” he says. Somehow, Ron managed to farm, play various high school sports and work full-time all through high school, a feat that is even more impressive when you consider that the school record he set for the high jump was not broken for nearly 30 years. Clearly, here was a very hardworking young man. “It’s true that I was never afraid to work hard,” he says, “but then, I was always properly rewarded for my work.”
At the age of 12, Ron decided that he wanted a job to earn money away from the farm so he got his local phone book and simply started cold calling businesses to tell them he was available to work. After quite a few hang-ups and rejections, Corky Leslie at Leslie’s Hardware store told him to come to the store to meet with him to discuss a possible job opportunity. “When we met, I told him that I could sweep, mop, stock shelves or whatever needed to be done. Thank goodness he hired me,” says Ron, “but I still had a problem.” With his tight schedule of farm work and other school activities, travel to and from work was going to be a time problem – he needed faster transportation. “Corky decided to invest in me by buying me a bicycle and letting me pay for it by working free for the first six months. I received regular pay after that.”
Ron worked at the hardware store for two years before switching to the Ford dealership across the street, where he started detailing cars. When it was time to buy his first car, you can be sure that he loyally bought a Ford. “I traded in the bicycle and bought a used Mustang; I was so proud of it,” he says. Senior year of high school was the usual mix of his many activities plus a full-time job as the assistant manager of McDonald’s.
Working his way through college, Ron became an engineer and worked in that profession for a number of years. He had a natural curiosity of understanding exactly how things worked. So the day his sister asked him to review the technology for a new company she was working for, Jet-Fax, and then write a report on what he thought of it – he was ready to accept this challenge. His report listed a number of problems and functions that could be improved. The CEO of the company got in touch with him and offered him a job in Menlo Park, California. Ron also helped raise money for Jet-Fax, which later became E-Fax. “The most important part of this experience for me was learning how the Silicon Valley system of investing in and developing technology worked,” he says.
In 1994, Ron moved to Atlanta in a transition plan with EDS, but by the end of the decade co-founded a locations-based mobile phone data technology company, IntelliOne Technologies. The company’s primary goal was to deliver useful traffic data accumulated from anonymous mobile phone signals, and the company’s technology was eventually used in one of the first applications for Apple’s iPhone.
Sionic Mobile was spun out of IntelliOne Technologies in 2011 with five employees, and from the beginning, their goal was to use mobile devices and the cloud to create a loyalty and rewards platform that was innovative and unique to anything else on the market. At its core, Sionic Mobile is a one stop network for loyalty. The company offers two mobile applications: ION Rewards for consumers, and ION Loyalty for merchants. “Our goal,” says Ron, “is to make sure that customers are rewarded for their loyalty with IONs – which they can spend at over 100,000 major retail and restaurant locations like Barnes & Noble, Lowe’s, Maggiano’s and many others.” The size of the network and ease of use are key. “Loyalty and rewards become unstuck – you earn IONs at one place but can use them in many, many other places,” he says. “We truly built the world’s first universal rewards program.”
The ION platform and app have been extensively refined since 2011 both in terms of the business model and the technology. First, unlike Starbucks, which gives one star per visit regardless of the amount spent, customers using Sionic Mobile’s ION Rewards app earn IONs instantly for every dollar spent, and there are no restrictions on how and when users can spend IONs. Second, their partnership with J.P. Morgan Chase makes the payment and reward system seamless for business owners using the ION Loyalty platform. “It has to be easy for customers to use,” says Ron, “but most important for merchants are the reduced processing rates we offer. Plus, we take full liability for the transaction.”
Ron is very proud of the company’s relationship with J.P. Morgan Chase and the benefits it brings to merchants. “Merchants keep telling me that interchange fees are killing them,” he says. “With our ION Loyalty platform, we offer a way for them to both save money and get a turnkey rewards system.” According to Ron, Chase has 20% of all US payment transactions and Sionic Mobile is now positioned to “ride that 20% and become one of the largest players in the co-op marketplace by this time next year.”
Now in discussions with an auto insurance company that has millions of customers, Ron clearly sees a future in which customers should get rewarded for all the payments they make, whether in-store or online. “Why shouldn’t a loyal customer be rewarded for making that monthly insurance or security system payment, or even paying the cable company?”
Ron is most excited about Sionic’s move into small business. “It’s great to have more than 100,000 national brand locations to use ION Rewards, but what we really believe will be game changing is our new ION Loyalty Small Business Center,” he says, “because it helps small business compete with larger retailers in ways they could not in the past.” Small businesses get unlimited mobile advertisements in the ION mobile rewards marketplace and their own-branded eGift Cards. “We are also providing an industry low 1% credit card processing fee,” he says. “We are now in the process of rolling out over 3,000 individually owned restaurant locations.”
With everything going so well, Ron expects a huge ramp-up for the company in 2016 – including hitting two key milestones: cash/EBITDA positive operations and double the transactions and revenue of the two closest competitors combined – all from rewards. “People work so hard for their money,” he says, “so they should be rewarded for their loyalty in where they choose to spend it. Additionally, merchants really want to give customers these rewards. It just hasn’t been easy for them to do it in the past.”
Not until Sionic Mobile, that is.
“I am curious about one thing,” he says. “I’m starting to wonder how long it will take for the word ION to enter the language as a new word for currency.”
Sionic Mobile Launches ION Loyalty Small Business Center for Merchants... >>
ATLANTA–Sionic Mobile today announced its highly anticipated ION Loyalty Small Business Center is now live, providing small business owners and local merchants an affordable, easy-to-use mobile loyalty, payments and marketing platform. ION Loyalty helps increase traffic and sales through unlimited advertisements in the ION mobile marketplace and with merchant-branded eGift Cards. The service also cuts costs by providing an industry-low, 1% credit card processing rate and keeps good customers returning more often through automated rewards at every checkout.
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. Despite the continued surge in mobile, the majority of small businesses (which currently make up more than 90 percent of the businesses in the U.S.) lack a sustainable mobile strategy citing the growing costs associated with upgrading POS terminals, lack of resources and increased fees as the primary challenges.
“Small business owners recognize the significance of mobile, and it’s not a question of if they will integrate mobile commerce, but rather when and how,” said Ronald Herman, CEO and founder of Sionic Mobile. “The biggest obstacles preventing these merchants from entering the mobile marketplace is the time and cost associated with replacing existing technology, and the increasing fees associated with these types of transactions. ION Loyalty, however, gives business owners a robust mobile payments, loyalty and marketing platform at an equal or lower rate than what they are paying for credit card processing alone and they use their existing, familiar equipment.”
There are no upfront costs, monthly fees or equipment requirements for merchants to use ION Loyalty. Business owners simply download the free ION Loyalty app to their smartphones or tablets and add an ‘ION’ tender key on their existing POS systems. Merchant settlements on all ION activity occurs nightly and payments are processed exclusively and securely through J.P. Morgan Chase.
“Small businesses need to invest in mobile strategies that go beyond simply accepting payments if they want to see a real return and long-term benefits,” continued Herman. “ION Loyalty adds the convenience of mobile payments at a very affordable rate, but also gives the small business owner tools needed to connect with its customers, attract new ones, and re-invest in loyalty.”
Small business owners may log in to the ION Loyalty Small Business Center to manage their accounts, create compelling mobile ads and view real-time payment activity and history.
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 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 or the ION Rewards Member Center to earn IONs when shopping online.
For Sionic Mobile
Anna Stanley, 678-781-3072
Remaining Agile is Key to Success in 2016 Payments Market... >>
By Ronald Herman, founder and CEO of Sionic Mobile
In 2016, the payments space will continue to evolve as stakeholders adapt and evolve processes to meet these growing demands, and those that remain agile will ultimately be successful.
Networks like Visa and MasterCard continue to invest heavily in securing and tightly controlling their respective payment networks, both announcing tokenization of their eWallet products earlier this year. The networks will continue to aggressively monetize data via third-party providers’ card-linked benefit programs ranging from offers, promotions and advertisements to card-less customer loyalty “earn and burn” services.
JP Morgan Chase leads the big banks, being the first to allow consumers to redeem Chase Sapphire rewards at the point of sale during checkouts at select retailers. Expect Chase to leverage its substantial base of business and consumer credit and debit cardholders alongside its Chase Pay, Chase Net and other commerce services to compete favorably against processors, ISOs and the various “Pays.”
Top-tier processors have highly diversified service portfolios and will continue to grow their businesses through M&A activity, including a potential merger of equals within the top ten list. Expect processors to invest heavily in value-added services and long-term agreement strategies to reduce churn and thwart competition from the networks.
As the large processors continue to fold merchant acquiring within their core businesses, M&A activity among ISOs and Super ISOs will continue. Look for ISOs to invest in a wide variety of value-added services to help create additional stickiness with their merchants.
The battle will continue between Apple, Android, Samsung, PayPal and Chase to secure their payments at big-brand retailers. Consumers will ultimately decide their preferred mobile pay program, requiring big retailers to accommodate, at a minimum, the four bank-device backed providers.
PayPal, Intuit and Square collectively account for a significant portion of small business payment processing. Payment processing rates among “the big three” are considered premium, prompting programs like Amazon Local touting an introductory rate of 1.75%. Amazon shuttered the program along with its attempt at mobile POS with Amazon Register. Small business merchants will seek out easy-to-use solutions that reduce card payment fees and help them effortlessly grow their business. Small retailers will not embrace programs provided or offered by Starbucks, MCX or other organizations they view as a competitive threat.
Ronald Herman is the founder and CEO of Midtown Atlanta-based Sionic Mobile. The company provides low-cost payments bundled with mobile marketing and customer loyalty to businesses and instant rewards to consumers at checkout.
PARTNER PROGRAMS – One Percenters Endorsed by Sionic... >>
One Percenters Endorsed by Sionic
Sionic Mobile (Atlanta, GA) has launched its online ION Loyalty Reseller Center, specifically targeting payment partners looking to enter ancillary areas of mobility, marketing, and customer loyalty. With this, merchants pay a flat rate of 1% for payment processing, regardless of credit card brand or type, and gain added benefit from unlimited mobile advertisements, self-branded e-gift cards, and not coincidentally, 1% automated customer rewards. Chalin, Inc. (Marietta, GA) is among the first payment service providers to leverage this new platform.
“My team now has the ability to onboard new merchants in a matter of minutes,” declared Chris Bissell, CEO of Chalin. “It doesn’t require any upfront investment or expensive new hardware–which allows any business owner, regardless of size, to compete in the mobile market. Providing these benefits at a low rate simply allows us to compete with all other mobile payment and advertising services.”
Under this process, once accounts are approved, merchants may immediately accept low-cost payments and offer instant rewards to their customers at every checkout, according to Sionic Mobile. A new ION Loyalty App, with so-called “Scan Pay,” delivers mobility for smartphones and tablets. Added to capacity for multiple merchants, the Reseller Center has detailed reporting. “Resellers have essentially been locked out of, or limited by, the mobile movement up until this point,” observed Ronald Herman, CEO and Founder of Sionic Mobile.
Chalin Taps Sionic Mobile’s ION Loyalty® Reseller Center... >>
ATLANTA–Sionic Mobile today announced the launch of its newest online center designed specifically for resellers of payment services and independent sales organizations (ISOs). The ION Loyalty Reseller Center provides tools resellers need to grow their businesses by combining mobile payments, marketing and customer rewards for their small-medium size businesses. Merchants pay a flat rate of one percent for payment processing, regardless of credit card brand or type, and gain added benefit from unlimited mobile ads, self-branded e-gift cards and one percent automated customer rewards.
Georgia-based Chalin, Inc. is among the first payment service providers to leverage the new platform. According to the company’s CEO, Chris Bissell, Sionic Mobile’s Reseller Center will be a game changer for small businesses and the payments market.
“Sionic Mobile’s Reseller Center provides resellers a viable strategy to gain the competitive edge in the mobile movement,” said Bissell. “My team now has the ability to onboard new merchants in a matter of minutes. It doesn’t require any upfront investment or expensive new hardware, which allows any business owner, regardless of size, to compete in the mobile market. I’m excited to provide businesses with a free mobile advertising platform, e-gift cards and the ability to reward new and loyal customers. Providing these benefits at a low rate simply allows us to compete with all other mobile payment and advertising services.”
The Reseller Center is highly intuitive, helping resellers to onboard merchants with a few simple clicks. Once accounts are approved, merchants may immediately accept low-cost payments and offer instant rewards to their customers at every checkout. The new ION Loyalty app for smartphones and tablets features Scan Pay, allowing merchants to accept plastic card payments from their mobile devices without any additional swipe hardware or EMV devices. The Reseller Center provides detailed reporting and supports multiple merchant organizations regardless of size, industry or location.
“Resellers have essentially been locked out of, or limited by the mobile movement up until this point,” said Ronald Herman, CEO and founder of Sionic Mobile. “We are providing resellers the tools needed to compete in an increasingly mobile market. We look forward to working with Chris Bissell and like-minded ISOs and resellers, helping business owners expand their footprint with mobile marketing, build customer loyalty with instant rewards and lower their costs with one of the industry’s best processing rates.”
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 or the ION Member Center to earn IONs when shopping online.
About Chalin Inc.
Chalin Payment Services was founded in 2004. Through its network of ISO’s and affiliations, the company specializes in offering innovative card processing solutions to merchants nationwide. Chalin Payment Services has access to most major processors and provides electronic authorizations with data capture of all major card brands. Their goal is to provide value added services to businesses, find best market solutions to fit their needs and to improve profitability through cooperative efforts.
For Sionic Mobile
Anna Stanley, 678-781-3072
Sionic: Styled for the SMB... >>
Sometimes lost in the buzz over all the new “Pay’s”–whether Apple, Google, Android, Samsung, or ‘Pal–is the SMB. Not in the case of Sionic Mobile (Atlanta, GA), which specifically fashions its mobile loyalty and payment scheme for this sector. This week, Sionic Mobile signed McBride Research Labs, maker of the “Design Essentials” brand of hair care products, to its surprisingly long list of customers (i.e., Banana Republic, Gamestop, and Gap). Here, McBride will employ the ION Loyalty solution by Sionic for its wholesalers. Eventually, this touches more than 30,000 retailers and salons in the U.S.
In addition to earning rewards, distributors of Design Essentials may apply for their own ION Loyalty account, reducing their credit card payment fees (via Chase Paymentech), and allowing them to reward their own customers with IONs. Additionally, with the new “Scan Pay” feature in the ION Loyalty mobile app, based on the smartphone’s camera, distributors can accept card payments in the field without having to use extra swipe or EMV devices, according to Sionic. At present more than 100,000 restaurants and retail locations accept IONs. (Distributors may also use IONs to purchase additional products from Design Essentials).
“After examining multiple loyalty platforms and programs, ION Loyalty is the only solution that gives our distributors the flexibility to earn and redeem rewards with no restrictions,” suggested Terry Armstrong, VP of Sales and Operations for McBride Research Labs. “It has an easy intuitive user interface while providing the scalability to grow with our company as we expand into new markets.” As expected, ION Loyalty accommodates online sales, mobile devices, and fixed POS.
McBride Research Labs Selects Sionic Mobile’s ION Loyalty Solution For Wholesalers... >>
ATLANTA–Sionic Mobile today announced McBride Research Labs, Inc., a Decatur, Ga.-based company, and manufacturers of the Design Essential brand of hair care products, has selected its ION Loyalty solution for wholesalers. Design Essentials distributors, servicing more than 30,000 retailers, salons and stylists nationwide, will now have access to the mobile loyalty and payments program. Distributors may spend the IONs they earn on every Design Essentials purchase like cash at more than 100,000 restaurants and retail locations nationwide or use their IONs to purchase additional Design Essentials products.
“We credit our outstanding network of distributors for many of our accomplishments to date, and recognize these individuals will play a vital role in our continued success,” said Terry Armstrong, vice president of sales and operations for McBride Research Labs. “We view each of our distributors as an extension of the McBride family, and as such, are pleased to offer ION Loyalty to reward their continued enthusiasm and diligence in marketing our products. After examining multiple loyalty platforms and programs, ION Loyalty is the only solution that gives our distributors the flexibility to earn and redeem rewards with no restrictions, has an easy intuitive user interface while providing the scalability to grow with our company as we expand into new markets.”
In addition to earning rewards, Design Essentials distributors may apply for their own ION Loyalty account, reducing their credit card payment fees and allowing them to reward their customers with IONs. And with the new Scan Pay feature in the ION Loyalty mobile app, Distributors can accept card payments while on the go without having to use extra swipe or EMV devices.
“McBride Research Labs has a rich history of innovation and industry firsts,” said Ronald Herman, CEO and founder of Sionic Mobile. “As a result of the company’s visionary approach, they are one of the leading global providers of hair care systems and products. We are pleased to partner with their organization to launch ION Loyalty for their distributors and look forward to offering our program to the more than 30,000 Design Essentials retailers, salons and stylists.”
About Design Essentials
Design Essentials Salon System was launched in 1990 by McBride Research Laboratory, Inc., which provides direct distribution of premium, quality hair care solutions engineered to infuse hair with a natural balance of organic ingredients, vitamins and proteins that promote healthy and manageable hair. Today, MRL offers more than 40 premium beautification products through e-commerce and direct-to-hair salons network of independent, exclusive distributors in the United States, Caribbean and the United Kingdom.
About Sionic Mobile
Midtown Atlanta-based Sionic Mobile provides low-cost mobile loyalty, payments and marketing services 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 or the ION Member Center to earn IONs when shopping online.
For Sionic Mobile
Anna Stanley, 678-781-3072
Sionic Mobile Releases All-New ION Loyalty® Education Center to Meet Growing Demand... >>
ATLANTA–Sionic Mobile today announced it has expanded its mobile fundraising platform and dedicated an entire solution exclusively for education-based organizations. First launched in September as part of the Community Foundation program, the ION Loyalty Education Center received an overwhelming response from school foundations and centers for PTA leaders nationwide. The expansion broadens the types of organizations able to use the platform, including colleges, universities, private and parochial schools, school clubs, boosters and many others.
The ION Loyalty Education Center helps connect communities of parents, educators, small businesses and supporters via always-on mobile donations, driving fundraising support and generating additional awareness of current needs and causes. There is no cost to participate in the fully merchant funded program and 100% of the donated rewards are directly deposited as cash each month.
Once an account is created, the online Education Center offers tools to track fundraising activities, progress and goals, and maintain detailed records of funds raised. The center also features digital outreach tools designed to further engage supporters and promote fundraising efforts.
“Early response to the Education Center has been incredible,” said Ronald Herman, CEO and founder of Sionic Mobile. “The consistent feedback we receive is the system is very simple to setup and manage and more funds are expected to be raised through ION Loyalty than their other programs.”
Sionic Mobile’s program leverages its online Education Center and a “DONATE” feature within its ION Rewards app, enabling supporters to automatically and instantly donate everyday rewards to their favorite school or education organization. To participate, supporters simply download the free ION Rewards app, select an organization to receive their donated IONs, then shop or dine at more than 100,000 ION merchant locations nationwide.
To sign up for the free program, schools or education organizations simply complete an online application by visiting https://manage.ionloyalty.com/education.
About Sionic Mobile
Midtown Atlanta-based Sionic Mobile helps small-medium business merchants get and keep mobile savvy customers by uniting mobile ads, loyalty rewards, eGift cards, and mobile payments in a simple, affordable service and provides nonprofit organizations an always-on mobile fundraising tool. The Company’s free ION RewardsⓇ app for iOS and Android make mobile payments at more than 100,000 locations nationwide simple, secure and rewarding for consumers.
For Sionic Mobile
Anna Stanley, 678-781-3072
Sionic Mobile wins the 2015 Local Visionary Award for Best Solution for SMBs... >>
As part of yesterday’s Street Fight Summit, we announced the winners of our first annual Local Visionary Awards (LVAs), an eight-category competition designed to honor the very best campaigns, companies, ideas, and individuals in local marketing and commerce. The awards were presented on the conference main-stage.
The LVAs recognized achievement in the following categories: Best New Product for SMBs, Best New Product for Enterprise Brands, Best Solution for SMBs, Best Solution for Enterprise Brands, Best Lead-Generation Campaign, Best Location-Based Campaign, Best Use of Data in Campaign Targeting, and Innovator of the Year. These categories reflect a broader shift in the way local businesses reach and engage with consumers. Dozens of submissions were received.
“A disruption has been taking place in local, with thousands of companies and individuals producing some very exciting, groundbreaking digital solutions that create new ways for local businesses to connect with local consumers,” said Street Fight CEO Laura Rich. “We’ve been celebrating these developments since 2011, and we’re thrilled to now specifically recognize some of the outstanding products and services in the marketplace.”
The LVA winners and finalists were as follows:
Best New Product for SMBs
Best New Product for Enterprise Brands
Best Solution for SMBs
Best Solution for Enterprise Brands
Best Lead-Generation Campaign
Best Location-Based Mobile Campaign
Best Use of Data in Campaign Targeting
Innovator of the Year
The winners other than Innovator of the Year were determined by a panel of judges that included Street Fight Insights director of research David Card; PagePart CEO Randy Parker; The Store/WPP Global Retail co-CEO Gwen Morrison; and Closely CEO Perry Evans. Innovator of the Year was determined by popular vote.
Loyalty at the center of Sionic Mobile’s proposition... >>
In many ways, Sionic Mobile is the anti-Pay when it comes to today’s mobile payments marketplace.
While Android Pay, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and PayPal grab the media headlines, Atlanta-based Sionic Mobile flys under the radar despite its presence at more than 100,000 national retail and restaurant locations as well as 50,000 fuel retailers and convenience stores nationwide. The company’s bread and butter is small businesses, but it also has partnerships with large retail chains such as Banana Republic, Gamestop and Gap.
At the heart of Sionic Mobile’s offering is the Ion Rewards app for consumers. In July, the company released the latest update to an app that now includes an interactive user interface, a two-tap checkout process and instant, real-time rewards for every purchases completed using the app.
Sionic Mobile also plans to add two more features for merchants in addition to its longstanding loyalty program: the ability to accept a card payment with a smartphone’s camera, thus eliminating the need to use something such as Square, and the ability for the merchant to deliver a digital receipt to a paying customer.
Ronald Herman, Sionic Mobile’s founder and CEO, revealed to Mobile Payments Today another forthcoming merchant benefit thanks to a new partnership with merchant services provider Chase Paymentech.
“We’re going live with a flat rate from Chase for the entire ION marketplace and every one of our merchants,” Herman said. “What that means is, interchange rates are gone. The flat transaction fee starts at 70 cents, and we expect it to reach the low point of 20 cents as early as January or February, with steps in between.”
The following is a Q&A session Mobile Payments Today conducted with Herman last month:
MP: How does Sionic Mobile view the mobile payments space today?
RH: For us, we’re really excited about what’s happening in the top-tier level of mobile payments starting last October with Apple Pay, and the recent introduction of Android Pay seems to be getting some interesting press. With Samsung Pay, I think the whole LoopPay acquisition was such a brilliant move on their part. We love to see the big boys duke it out, and, hopefully, they’re paying attention to what their customers and consumers are saying. For us, we think the payments space is just starting to take shape.
MP: How does what the “big boys” are doing trickle down to Sionic Mobile?
RH: They’re kind of paving the way for us. Our focus is, and even if you look at our app and might think otherwise, squarely on the small-business sector and with enterprise being our follow on. Quite candidly, the small business folks are telling us that they’re not really excited about the big boys because they don’t understand them and it’s more equipment. They’re so reluctant with EMV that they are also reluctant to embrace the big guys. For us, it’s a good awareness piece. It’s great that they’re doing it from the top down and we’re going to stay focused in the small business sector where we think we’re going to do well.
MP: From the beginning, Sionic Mobile has positioned itself as a loyalty/rewards app first, while mobile payments is a means to the end of the transaction. Do you think that approach as worked for the company?
RH: When we founded this company, we realized pretty quickly that a lot of businesses just can’t afford to pay interchange and have a reasonable customer loyalty program, let alone everything else that goes along with mobile marketing. We started [back in 2012] with Dwolla because of their very low-cost payment structure and it was really appealing. In that environment, we could eke out a small living for ourselves, provide a crackerjack loyalty program, and keep the interchange out of the equation. We’ve always positioned this as, if we can make room in the marketplace for us for a small marketing fee, and make sure the loyalty aspect is seamless for our customers, then we have a winning proposition.
MP: How has Shop2Give (Sionic Mobile’s e-donation feature) evolved?
RH: We very recently made the decision to separate Shop2Give from ION Loyalty for a lot of good reasons, but that platform as a whole is specially earmarked for very large non-profits. The existing system that we have in place today will be migrated to the ION system and we’ll have a donate feature where supporters can shop and dine and do what they normally do within that app and then have a trigger that automatically donates their loyalty rewards to that non-profit. That’s a much easier way for us to do it and the non-profits that love the Shop2Give, some of them will start branding it on their own.
MP: Overall, how have merchants responded to Sionic Mobile’s offerings?
RH: We’re in the fourth generation of this platform, and each time we release a major update, it seems to resonate really well with merchants, and best with the small businesses. For example, we’ve put in about $1.5 million the past six months into a very intricate fraud prevention program, which we believe is one of the reasons why Chase Paymentech was so excited about working with us. As a result, there is no chargeback in our model. It doesn’t exist in our business operation. A lot of the small businesses that face chargebacks are gravitating very nicely to our platform.
MP: What are a couple of trends we should be looking out for heading into the holiday season and into next year?
RH: We are already seeing an increase [in holiday shopping trends]. In fact, week-over-week, we are starting to see unsually heavy activity, a little earlier this year than we even did last year. Lowe’s is an obvious one because they’re going into the fall season and people are winterizing their homes. We’re also seeing a big upswing in Gap and Banana Republic, and Sephora. I’m anxious to see what happens this year, but we’re expecting a significant uptick in revenue in that.
I’m anxious to see what happens with Macy’s. I think that environment might be a little bit more conducive to a PayPal mashup. I’m going to be watching what happens with Plenti, as well as MCX and CurrentC.
Sionic Mobile Joins the National PTA Fundraising Marketplace... >>
ATLANTA — Sionic Mobile, a mobile commerce leader, today announced its ION Loyalty solution is now one of the programs featured in the National PTA Fundraising Marketplace available to PTA leaders and members nationwide. A one-stop resource, the PTA Fundraising Marketplace features innovative programs that have the unique ability to boost fundraising efforts, improve school and/or PTA operations and enhance the overall well-being of students.
ION Loyalty is merchant funded so there is no cost for PTA leaders to participate and 100 percent of the donated rewards are deposited as cash directly into a local unit’s bank account each month.
Sionic Mobile’s ION Loyalty connects school administrators, teachers, parents, small businesses and community leaders through their mobile devices. PTA leaders use the online ION Loyalty Center to manage donated rewards and access digital outreach tools encouraging parents and supporters to download and use the free ION Rewards app in their community to initiate donated rewards.
Good at 100,000+ retail and restaurant locations nationwide, the ION Rewards app pays users 2% or more of checkout amounts instantly for every purchase completed using the app. To automatically donate earned IONs (1,000 IONs = $1.00), supporters simply tap the “DONATE” feature within the app and select or search for their PTA local unit name.
“When schools experience budget shortfalls, fundraising efforts become increasingly important to ensure the overall well-being and educational experience of children do not suffer,” said Ronald Herman, CEO of Sionic Mobile. “ION Loyalty provides an easy, ‘always-on’ fundraising solution utilizing modern mobile channels for individual charitable giving. We look forward to working with local units to enhance their fundraising efforts.”
About Sionic Mobile
Midtown Atlanta-based Sionic Mobile helps small-medium business merchants get and keep mobile savvy customers by uniting mobile ads, loyalty rewards, eGift cards, and mobile payments in a simple, affordable service and provides nonprofit organizations an always-on mobile fundraising tool. The Company’s free ION Rewards® and ION Loyalty® apps for iOS and Android make mobile payments at more than 100,000 locations nationwide simple, secure and rewarding for consumers.
Contacts for Sionic Mobile
Anna Stanley, 678-781-3072
MasterCard Tests How ‘Selfies’ Lift Security Where EMV Won’t Go... >>
MasterCard and First Tech Federal Credit Union are testing a system that might be the picture-perfect solution to the expected rise in e-
commerce fraud following the October shift to EMV security in the U.S.
The previously announced pilot for facial and fingerprint recognition, beginning next month, marks the first biometrics test in the U.S. for the Purchase, N.Y.based card network. The technology is focused on adding a second factor of authentication to e-commerce transactions, which typically see more fraud after EMV-chip card payments become the norm at the point of sale.
Calling the system “Selfie Pay” through the testing period, credit union members will be asked to take a “selfie” photo from a smartphone that has been previously registered with the service, or scan their fingerprint through an app. After this biometric trait is provided, the e-commerce transaction would be approved.
“Credit unions are member-centric, and our members are drawn from the largest Silicon Valley players, so they are extremely tech focused,” said Brian Ziff-Levine, director of cards and payments at First Tech CU. The system will likely be renamed after the test period.
Because of the generally smaller size of a credit union compared to a large bank operation, First Tech is able to “move more quickly” on payments technology development, Ziff-Levine said.
The need for layered security will grow stronger as fraudsters step up their efforts to target Web transactions, said Julie Conroy, research director and fraud expert with Boston-based Aite Group.
“It’s also really a recognition on MasterCard’s part that as card not present fraud continues to rise in Europe as a mature EMV economy — and it will happen in the U.S. as EMV arrives — there needs to be new, innovative dynamic mechanisms that can add more security,” Conroy said.
In the payment security world, the potential use of selfies for authentication has picked up momentum in 2015, though the specific use cases vary widely. Sionic Mobile promotes the technology for mobile payments; NCR’s Digital Insight is working to add selfie-based eye vein scanning to mobile banking; Alibaba’s “smile to pay” system would be used for online shopping; and the defunct Square Wallet used images of faces as a digital version of a photo ID.
As has always been the case in payments security, the future of biometrics rests on consumer adoption, Conroy said. “When it comes down to taking a few extra steps for security, for incremental precautions, some security-minded consumers will do it, but many will continue to go with the quickest and easiest route,” Conroy said.
MasterCard “feels good about biometrics” because of recent consumer feedback that indicated 83% of consumers “are excited about new security technology” and 88% say they trust their payment network to deliver those products, said Carolyn Balfany, senior vice president of product delivery at MasterCard.
MasterCard views the First Tech pilot as a next step in its commitment to the Obama Administration to develop cybersecurity measures for payments, but it is open to testing other forms of biometrics, she said.
“It is likely that retina scans and voice recognition will continue to be tested and, depending on results, would also be rolled out on a broader scale,” Balfany said. “We can’t think we will universally authenticate every transaction in the same way, because consumers will have biometrics preferences.”
First Tech will test “Selfie Pay” through simulated e-commerce transactions and members’ virtual donations to the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals through October.
MasterCard has a similar biometrics test underway in the Netherlands with International Card Services in which consumers pay online through fingerprint or facial recognition. Authentication takes place through MasterCard SecureCode, a software platform often used in combination with a password or PIN.
Discover Financial Services has been separately testing a mobile payment system using biometric authentication technology at its Riverwoods, Ill., headquarters since late 2013, though it has not disclosed any plans for a wider rollout.
ION Rewards Nominated For Atlanta Mobile Marketing Organization People’s Choice Award... >>
Sionic Mobile, a mobile commerce leader, launched its all-new ION Rewards app (version 4.0) for consumers, free in both App Store and Play. This latest release (launched in July 2015) introduces new features and functionality including an interactive user interface, simple, yet secure two-tap checkout process and instant, real-time rewards for every purchase completed using the app. The new ION Rewards app enhances the shopping experience from start to finish, delivering location-based, tailored promotions, enabling convenient and fast checkouts, and then, rewards users instantly for every completed checkout with IONs that spend like cash.
The fourth generation ION Rewards app uses proprietary, three-tier fraud detection technology, providing one of the most secure mobile payments and rewards platforms available today. The app also leverages tokenized payment processing to protect consumers, merchants and banks.
Smartphone-savvy consumers use ION Rewards to earn 2% instantly for paying with the app at more than 100,000 retail and restaurant locations nationwide. Merchants also reward app users with IONs for purchasing promotional items. 1,000 IONs equals $1.00, spend like cash on anything, anytime at any ION merchant and never expire. ION Rewards is secure, using facial recognition during sign-up to prevent identity fraud and trusted, partnering with top-tier card processors and FDIC-insured banks. The ION Rewards app supports iOS and most Android devices. Vote Now!
Sionic Mobile Unveils Its ION Loyalty® Community Foundation Center, Turning Customer Rewards into Charitable Donations... >>
Sionic Mobile, a mobile commerce leader, today announced the expansion of its robust mobile rewards and payments platform to offer the ION Loyalty Community Foundation Center. The new online center helps community foundations better connect with small businesses and supporters through mobile devices, drive automated, recurring donations and increase awareness of community initiatives and nonprofits. CLICK TO TWEET: Turning Customer Rewards Into Charitable Donations
“We make charitable giving simple and flexible by connecting donor interests and priorities to the needs of the Cobb community. The ION program enables us to connect local, small businesses and their customers with our funds, nonprofits and causes, making recurring fundraising seamless across the community.”
The Cobb Community Foundation (CCF), a charitable organization created by and for the people of Cobb County, Georgia, is one of the first foundations to join the program. CCF supports several funds in the region, and among them is Enduring Hearts, a nonprofit whose mission is to fund advanced research to increase the longevity of pediatric organ transplants, with priority toward studies that benefit vital organs, such as the heart.
“We have been promoting the importance of effective philanthropy in Cobb County for more than twenty years,” said Tommy Allegood, executive director of CCF. “We make charitable giving simple and flexible by connecting donor interests and priorities to the needs of the Cobb community. The ION program enables us to connect local, small businesses and their customers with our funds, nonprofits and causes, making recurring fundraising seamless across the community.”
Sionic Mobile’s new program leverages its online Community Foundation Center and a “DONATE” feature within its ION Rewards app, enabling users to automatically and instantly donate everyday rewards to their favorite charity or cause. There is no cost to foundations or their funds to participate in the program and 100% of the donated rewards are deposited as cash directly into foundations’ accounts each month. To sign up for the program, community foundations simply complete the online application by visiting https://manage.ionloyalty.com/CF_apply/.
According to New York-based Foundation Center, the leading source of information on philanthropy worldwide, there are more than 108,000 active community foundations nationwide dedicated to working with local charitable organizations and causes to drive fundraising efforts. Research indicates mobile fundraising is increasingly important to helping these organizations achieve fundraising goals while attracting new supporters.
ION Rewards app users earn instant rewards at every checkout when paying with their phones at more than 100,000 locations nationwide. Users now have the option to donate their IONs (1,000 IONs = $1.00) automatically to their favorite community cause or charity.
“We’ve collaborated with several nonprofits, community foundations and school foundations for more than a year to create the new online center,” said Ronald Herman, CEO of Sionic Mobile. “The program is the only one of its kind using mobile devices to easily connect community businesses, supporters and causes.”
About Sionic Mobile
Midtown Atlanta-based Sionic Mobile helps small-medium business merchants get and keep mobile savvy customers by uniting mobile ads, loyalty rewards, eGift cards, and mobile payments in a simple, affordable service and provides nonprofit organizations an always-on mobile fundraising tool. The Company’s free ION RewardsⓇ and Shop2GiveⓇ apps for iOS and Android make mobile payments at more than 100,000 locations nationwide simple, secure and rewarding for consumers.
For Sionic Mobile
Anna Stanley, 678-781-3072
Mobile Payments, Rewards Advance Beyond Consumers... >>
Loyalty programs are typically viewed as a consumer-facing marketing play, but the shift to mobile commerce is bringing these programs deeper into the supply chain.
Sionic Mobile is extending its technology to new audiences, such as the supplier who wants to change the way its merchant clients pay for its goods.
“In our model the entity receiving payment now has the financial freedom to reward the payee,” said Ronald Herman, CEO and founder of Sionic Mobile, an Atlanta-based marketing company. “This creates space for the distributors to make offers to retailers, who can then make offers to consumers.”
Sionic has partnered with a processor to enable the business supply portion of its rewards program. (Sionic did not identify the processor).
The program offers payment fees that are less than the typical interchange for procurement, which exceeds 2%, Herman said. The first wholesaler to use the new business rewards model is giving its distributors back 1% of their mobile payment amounts. The wholesaler also pays a 0.5% to Sionic.
Sionic’s network includes about 100,000 locations and retailers such as Bass Pro Shops, GameStop, Papa Johns and Staples. Every Sionic merchant is required to reward at least 0.25% to app users, regardless of whether that merchant receives IONs from a distributor or pays for the IONs being rewarded out of the sale, Sionic said. If Sionic’s strategy works, the rewards will forge a relationship that extends from manufacturers to consumers, increasing transaction volume at each step.
The competition among mobile payment marketing companies to win merchant business is fierce, and other companies, such as SCVGNR’s LevelUp, have taken the approach of designing a loyalty program to steer customers to less expensive payment options.
The new business incentives will be offered through Sionic’s small business center, a mobile portal which is scheduled to debut in August. The small business center is designed to enable micro-merchants to offer rewards, mobile payments, e-gift cards and the ability to create and deploy mobile advertising campaigns.
“We’re extending the functionality of payments and rewards model across the entire chain,” Herman said.
Sionic Mobile has also released a new version of its reward app and has upgraded its back end system. The update adds security and refines how rewards are tailored based on spending trends.
“There’s more IONs to earn depending on where a consumer shops and what a consumer buys,” Herman said.
The challenge for Sionic Mobile is whether it can convince shoppers to favor its app over those of larger companies such as PayPal, Google or Apple, said Nikhil Joseph, an analyst with the emerging technologies service at the Mercator Advisory Group.
“The three tech ‘Goliaths’ all have deep pockets and intense desire to own the payment experience through their apps and operating systems,” Joseph said.
The technology that can match an offer to a consumer in real time, which is a large part of Sionic’s upgrade strategy, exists elsewhere. But what’s missing is the optimal consumer experience that’s non-intrusive and integrates with payments, Joseph said.
“Ideally, when you walk into a store and look at a particular product section, you should not only be able to receive a unique offer that’s relevant, but also redeem it at the point of sale in one action that also takes care of the payment,” Joseph said.