News & Events

Mobile Wallets and the Future of Payments

BY: Alex Lindstrom Thursday, July 24th, 2014

Source: Host Merchant Services

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Mobile wallets are big news right now. It seems like more apps are released every day. There are big players like MasterCard’s MasterPass and Apple’s Passbook, and there are also store-specific payment apps that allow consumers to shop at specific chain locations. The options are there, and consumers are increasingly taking advantage of mobile payments to slim down their wallets and speed up their checkouts.

According to the Digital Wallet Usage Study (Thrive Analytics), 32% of consumers are now using mobile wallets as part of their payment wheelhouse. That figure is set to rise, especially if EMV systems become more popular.

EMV AND MOBILE PAYMENTS
EMV is a big player in the mobile payments world because EMV systems are designed to support near-field communication (NFC) contactless payments from both EMV smart cards and mobile wallet apps. Internationally, EMV is the standard for payments. However, the U.S. is lagging in uptake; the U.S. payments ecosystem is still dominated largely by magnetic stripe cards, which means EMV-capable point-of-sale systems are not yet as widespread as they could be.

MasterCard, Visa, Discover, and American Express are pushing for merchant EMV compliance by October 2015. Compliance is not mandatory, but merchants will be held liable for card fraud if they do not meet EMV standards. If the push to transition to EMV is successful, we will see a rise in mobile wallet usage because of widespread compatibility.

Karen Webster, CEO of Market Platform Dynamics, suggests that EMV acceptance would accelerate the growth of the mobile payments sector by significant margins. Contact-based EMV payments are inconvenient in a society accustomed to swipe-and-sign payments. It’s very possible that consumers will transition to mobile payments in order to sidestep the hassle and open up a much wider array of services.

THE PROBLEMS
Although mobile wallet applications appear to be promising, as an emerging technology, they have some growing pains to overcome.

As Ron Herman, CEO of Sionic Mobile, writes, mobile payments are currently divided between many applications. Store-specific wallet applications are to blame for this one; many retailers are taking the marketing opportunity to release chain-specific payment apps that double as customer loyalty trackers. Although combining loyalty tracking with mobile payments is a good idea in theory, the execution is lacking because it divides the consumer between many limited applications. It’s suggested that the mobile wallet experience will continue to falter until these applications are drawn together into a unified consumer experience.

Mobile wallets are also not a catchall payments solution because POS support for mobile payment applications is not yet universal. This is a transitional period on the payments timeline; we’re looking at a payment ecosystem that’s still clinging to magstripe technology, and EMV and mobile payments are edging their way into a system that doesn’t have the infrastructure to fully support them.

What will the future hold for mobile wallets? Hopefully good things; it seems that the mobile payment sector will continue to grow as consumers gravitate toward convenience and speed. That does mean, however, that convenience has to be a priority. The mobile wallet experience needs to be straightforward and unified if consumers are to embrace it as the future staple of their payments wheelhouse.

INTERESTED IN EMV SOLUTIONS FOR MOBILE WALLETS ACCEPTANCE?

Host Merchant Services offers EMV solutions for business owners. If you’re interested in getting a head start on the rest of the U.S. market, contact an HMS sales representative today and ask about our EMV-compliant equipment and processing options.

sales@hostmerchantservices.com

Connect with Dads & Grads to Send Instant Digital Gift Cards

BY: SIONIC MOBILE May 29, 2014

Source: Sionic Mobile

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ATLANTA – Sionic Mobile, an mCommerce company providing mobile promotions, gifts, donations, payments and rewards, today announced users of its ION Rewards app can earn up to two percent instantly for every digital gift card purchased. ION users can select from top merchants, including Lowe’s, GameStop, Papa John’s, Barnes & Noble, GolfSmith, Bass Pro Shops, Brookstone and many others, making it the perfect choice for Father’s Day and graduation gifts.  Dads and Grads receive gift cards instantly within the ION Rewards app and simply show the gift card on their phones to the cashier when checking out.

In a recent survey, The Retail Gift Card Association (RGCA) found that two-thirds of U.S. shoppers plan to purchase gift cards for Father’s Day and recent graduates. Respondents indicated home improvement stores and restaurants are among the most coveted choices for dads, while technology/bookstores and department stores are among the top favorites for graduates.

“Gift cards are extremely popular and remain one of the top choices to honor dads and recent graduates,” said Ronald Herman, CEO of Sionic Mobile. “ION Rewards offers users a unique and convenient gifting experience, in which they can purchase and send gift cards from their smartphone, plus earn IONs instantly at checkout.”

For every digital gift card purchased, users instantly receive IONs (up to two percent of the total checkout amount) that spend like cash and are accepted at more than 25,000 shops, restaurants and hotels. Consumers can download the free ION Rewards app from the AppStore or Play, and link a preferred payment — Google Wallet, checking, credit card and/or Dwolla account. Download to first checkout typically takes just a few taps and may be completed in less than a minute.

About Sionic Mobile
Atlanta-based Sionic Mobile markets to smartphone consumers and rewards them for every mobile checkout. The mCommerce company utilizes mobile devices and the cloud to connect merchants with nearby, ready-to-spend consumers. The company is the maker and provider of ION — the first, fully digital mobile promotions, gift cards, donations, payments and rewards apps for phones and tablets. Merchants use ION Loyalty® to increase traffic, sales & margins, reduce credit card fees and get good customers back more often. Consumers use ION Rewards® to earn IONs at every checkout then spend them like cash, send e-gift cards, IONs and fuel to other ION users and donate to favorite non-profits at no extra cost. The free apps support iOS and most Android devices.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MEDIA CONTACTS
Anna Stanley: 678.781.3072
Kathryn Farmer: 678.781.7208

Sionic Mobile Helps Camp Sunshine Support Georgia’s Children With Cancer

BY: Business Wire May 8, 2014

Source: Business Wire

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ATLANTA – Sionic Mobile, an mCommerce company providing mobile promotions, gifts, donations, payments and rewards, today announced the addition of Atlanta-based non-profit, Camp Sunshine, to the “GIVE” feature within its ION Rewards mobile loyalty app. Sionic Mobile’s GIVE, GET BACK, PAY FORWARD campaign makes it simple and convenient for donors to give to Camp Sunshine with only two taps of their smartphones.

“Camp Sunshine is thrilled to be featured inside the ION Rewards app,” said Lindsey Acciarito, special events and communications manager for Camp Sunshine. “Providing donors a convenient way to contribute from their smartphones will not only help us reach our goals, but also serve as a way to raise awareness for Camp Sunshine and the year round recreational, educational and support programs offered. We are constantly seeking ways to reach the 420 children in Georgia diagnosed with cancer each year—so creating awareness is just as important as donations.”

Sionic Mobile is adding both national and local non-profit organizations to the ION Rewards GIVE feature. Currently, users may contribute any amount at any time directly from their mobile device to charitable organizations using Google Wallet, a linked credit card or eCheck. Sionic Mobile also donates its own cash contribution when a user selects the non-profit as a Connection inside the ION Rewards app. When users earn IONs for paying with their phones at thousands of places such as Lowe’s, Staples, Papa John’s, Barnes & Noble and others, an additional contribution will be made directly by Sionic Mobile to their connected charity.

Ronald Herman, CEO of Sionic Mobile, explained, “Our GIVE, GET BACK, PAY FORWARD campaign exists to support charitable organizations by leveraging mobile payments and rewards to simplify the donation process. Camp Sunshine positively impacts the lives of Georgia’s children with cancer and their families, and we are honored to have them integrated in the ION Rewards GIVE feature. We look forward to working with their team to further shed light on this incredible organization.”

Consumers can download the free ION Rewards app from the AppStore or Play, tap once to sign up with their Gmail/G+ credentials then GIVE instantly with their Google Wallet account. Download to first checkout typically takes just a few taps and may be completed in less than a minute. After every mobile checkout is completed, including charitable donations, users instantly receive IONs (up to two percent of the total checkout amount) that spend like cash and are accepted at more than 25,000 shops, restaurants and hotels.

About Sionic Mobile
Atlanta-based Sionic Mobile markets to smartphone consumers and rewards them for every mobile checkout. The mCommerce company utilizes mobile devices and the cloud to connect merchants with nearby, ready-to-spend consumers. The company is the maker and provider of ION — the first, fully digital mobile promotions, gift cards, donations, payments and rewards apps for phones and tablets. Merchants use ION Loyalty® to increase traffic, sales & margins, reduce credit card fees and get good customers back more often. Consumers use ION Rewards® to earn IONs at every checkout then spend them like cash, send e-gift cards, IONs and fuel to other ION users and donate to favorite non-profits at no extra cost. The free apps support iOS and most Android devices.

About Camp Sunshine
Camp Sunshine enriches the lives of Georgia’s children with cancer and their families through year round recreational, educational and support programs. Camp Sunshine is committed to providing opportunities for normal development for all children with cancer throughout their journey, bringing together those with similar experiences to share and draw strength from one another amid common understanding. For more information, call 404.325.7979 or visit www.mycampsunshine.com.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MEDIA CONTACTS
Anna Stanley: 678.781.3072
Kathryn Farmer: 678.781.7208

Mobile Commerce Insider Week in Review

BY: Joe Rizzo May 03, 2014

Source: Mobile Commerce Insider

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Using the example of what happened over the Christmas holiday last year, we can understand the need for security. I am referring to the stolen credit card information that was hacked from Target. While more people are becoming comfortable using mobile devices for shopping and banking there will always be the need to feel secure. Toward this end, the financial community has not been holding back its attempts to create a more secure environment. Companies like TSWG are assisting in the process.

I am sure that we are all familiar with the plastic donation boxes that sit on most counters near the cash register. If a majority of people are making payments with cards and mobile devices that coin change that used to find its way into the drop-off box becomes a thing of the past. That is why Sionic Mobile is giving people a chance to pay it forward with C.H.O.I.C.E.S.

It is now going to be a little easier for customers to make payments and for retail merchants and SMBs to process those payments in the Philippines. Using a product similar to Square, the device that attaches to your smartphone allowing you to process credit card payments, Filipino carrier, Globe Telecom may just have the solution that SMBs need.

There are always reports forecasting and estimating what the future holds. One of the latest reports sees mobile commerce will shoot past the $450 billion mark in just five years. In order for this to actually come to light, all the different segments and ways of accomplishing the same process need to come to together.I have said in the past that security is a major part of that. When companies work together to offer a product, such as a mobile payment option, that makes life easier, it has to be secure, giving consumers the confidence to use it. If that happens, we may see even higher revenue numbers.

One thing that news like this does accomplish is make more companies that were taking a back seat to see how the mobile commerce market does, jump into the fray and take a chance. Let’s be honest, small retailers and SMBs often cannot take the chance and make a major investment in something like mobile commerce unless they feel that there is a return factor. Thanks to reports showing a rapidly growing market, companies like Beddingstyle.com have launched new mobile websites.

These are just a few of the stories that we worked on this week. The best way to stay current is to keep checking in with us. You can stay current by checking out the details to these stories and many more by going to Mobile Commerce Insider and keeping an eye what is going on in the mobile world of commerce.

Sionic Mobile, C.H.O.I.C.E.S Join Forces to Fight Childhood Obesity

BY: Sionic Mobile April 29, 2014

Source: Sionic Mobile

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ATLANTA– Sionic Mobile, an mCommerce company providing mobile promotions, gifts, donations, payments and rewards, today announced it has added a new “GIVE” feature within its ION Rewards mobile loyalty app, making it easy for users to make charitable donations to Atlanta-based Center Helping Obesity in Children End Successfully Inc., C.H.O.I.C.E.S. This marks the launch of Sionic Mobile’s GIVE, GET BACK, PAY FORWARD campaign designed to support charitable organizations by digitally mobilizing the donation process.

“C.H.O.I.C.E.S. is honored to be the first non-profit to be featured inside the ION Rewards app,” said Vanetta Keyes, founder and executive director of C.H.O.I.C.E.S. “Our ability to grow, educate children and parents on the importance of healthy choices and create awareness within the community is directly tied to donor contributions. Providing donors the ability to contribute conveniently from their smartphones helps ensure these goals are achieved, and allows us to reach a new audience that may not be aware of our organization.”

Currently the ION Rewards GIVE feature enables users to contribute any amount, at any time directly from their mobile device to charitable organizations like C.H.O.I.C.E.S. In an upcoming release, Sionic Mobile is adding a second GIVE option, enabling users to add a contribution at the completion of every checkout using ION Rewards – similar to change drop boxes found at many stores. Plus, Sionic Mobile will chip in with its own cash contributions whenever users select the non-profit as a Connection inside the ION Rewards app. Every time a user earns IONs, an additional contribution will be made directly by Sionic Mobile.

“The goal of our GIVE, GET BACK, PAY FORWARD campaign is to support charitable organizations by leveraging mobile payments and rewards to make the donation process simple and convenient for donors,” explained Ronald Herman, CEO of Sionic Mobile. “I have personally supported and been involved with C.H.O.I.C.E.S for many years, and have witnessed first-hand how many children’s lives have been positively impacted by the organization’s dedication and community involvement. We are pleased to have them as the first charitable organization to leverage the new ION Rewards GIVE feature, and look forward to working with their team to bring even more awareness to this important cause.”

Consumers simply download the free ION Rewards app, available in Apple’s AppStore or Google Play, link a payment account or Google Wallet then select the GIVE feature to contribute directly to charitable organizations from their smartphones. Following the completion of every mobile checkout, including charitable donations, users are instantly rewarded with IONs (up to two percent of the total purchase) that spend like cash, and are accepted at more than 25,000 shops, restaurants and hotels.

About Sionic Mobile​
Atlanta-based Sionic Mobile markets to smartphone consumers and rewards them for every mobile checkout. The mCommerce company utilizes mobile devices and the cloud to connect merchants with nearby, ready-to-spend consumers. The company is the maker and provider of ION — the first, fully digital mobile promotions, gift cards, donations, payments and rewards apps for phones and tablets. Merchants use ION Loyalty® to increase traffic, sales & margins, reduce credit card fees and get good customers back more often. Consumers use ION Rewards® to earn IONs at every checkout then spend them like cash, send e-gift cards, IONs and fuel to other ION users and donate to favorite non-profits at no extra cost. The free apps support iOS and most Android devices.

MEDIA CONTACTS
Anna Stanley: 678.781.3072
​​​Kathryn Farmer: ​​​678.781.7208

Goodbye, billfold. Hello, smartphone – AJC SPECIAL REPORT: FUTURE OF MONEY

BY: Sean Sposito April 10, 2014

Source: AJC

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Here’s the thing about Taka Torimoto: he’s more likely to remember his smartphone than his billfold. And that spells opportunity for a whole raft of new players in the lucrative payments industry.

A 41-year-old technical consultant with an engineering degree from Georgia Tech, Torimoto has paid for fast food with the tap of his phone and sent money just as you would attachments in emails. His father digitally sends the grandkids cash for Christmas. No more checks.

Torimoto’s voice rises with excitement as he talks about the new possibilities. “Payments is one area that is going in so many different directions.”

Watch Video: http://www.myajc.com/videos/news/the-future-of-money-the-consumer/vCXXgG/

For the first time since the advent of credit cards, there are new ways to pay that don’t involve cash, check or plastic. Most are built on top of the existing payments system, but — courtesy of that hand- held computer in our pockets and purses — offer new vistas for both consumers and tech entrepreneurs.

“It’s clear that the mobile phone is the device that people are going to be using in the future to pay,” says David S. Evans, Chairman of the Global Economics Group. “It’s not going to be a plastic card.”

And whether you’re looking for legacy players or innovators, Atlanta is right in the thick of the action. It’s been a payments hub for half a century, and is well poised to maintain that status.

Inflection point
By 2017, Forrester Research estimates, Americans will spend roughly $90 billion using a smartphone or other handheld device, a more than seven-fold increase from the amount spent in 2012. The firm’s figures include mobile remote commerce; mobile peer to peer payments and remittances; and mobile proximity payments.

Even if its estimate is too optimistic — as projections in this arena have tended to be — the pace at which startups are emerging is already head-spinning: Stripe, PayNearMe and WePay, among more than a thousand others, fueled by billions of dollars in venture capital.

For consumers, mobile payments mean greater convenience and better security. For merchants and banks, they present new opportunities to track you and target sales pitches and rewards to you. And they give tech entrepreneurs a low-cost entry point into the multi-billion dollar payments pipeline.

So why aren’t already living in a post-plastic world?

In part, because everyone involved in the chain – merchants, card issuers, traditional processors, tech innovators and consumers – is looking to maximize how much money they keep at the end of the day. Sometimes, the interests of two or more players align, but often they don’t.

Sorting it out – via market forces and regulation — is likely to make for a period that’s exciting, bewildering, messy and frustrating. And right now, we’re at an inflection point, where what emerged as a handful of novelties is becoming a new way of doing business.\

Race to the top
That’s evident in the changes the incumbents are making. Banks, payment networks such as Visa, Mastercard, Discover and Amex, and the tech companies that serve them, such as FIS and Fiserv, are scrambling to keep up.

“In 2014, you’ll see larger payments entities scramble to accelerate the pace of their innovation to catch up to these smaller and more nimble competitors,” predicted PayPal president David Marcus, in a blog post.

“Meanwhile, smaller players will scramble to achieve the scale and experience needed to compete in a global business,” he wrote. “As a result, billions of dollars will be at play in the payment industry, and 2014 will be a year of game-changing disruption.”

Last year, PayPal, launched 58 new products, partly because of new threats, according to a recent New York Times report.

And earlier this year the ecommerce arm of eBay announced PayPal Beacon, a Bluetooth device that reads payment information from a smartphone. With that device, someone like a restaurant server would no longer have to take your card away from the table to complete a transaction.

That’s in addition to a partnership with Discover, which lets folks use PayPal in the checkout line at some of the nation’s largest merchants. PayPal has also recently acquired progressive payment processor Braintree, which has regulatory approval to move money nationwide.

It’s marketing its services to mobile-based innovators such as Uber, Airbnb and TaskRabbit, which facilitate transactions between individual sellers and buyers of, respectively, rides, lodging and doers of household errands and other tasks.

And we haven’t even talked yet about Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, which operate in a parallel payments universe, completely outside the existing system.

To be sure, some of the innovations won’t stick.

“Innovation and disruption is an inherently inefficient and lofty process,” said Matt Harris, managing director at Bain Capital Ventures. He harkens back to the first wave of dot-coms, with its rash of failures.

“We are at that now, at least in consumer financial services,” he said.
But some of the experiments will succeed, and at least a few will change the landscape for all of us.

At our core
The practice of paying others is at the psychological core of who we are. It lets us buy, sell and, most importantly, earn through our labor. It allows us to say thank you in a tangible way.

Effectively, anything can be a form of payment as long as it is widely distributed, safe, accepted by both buyer and seller, and regulated by a system of rules. Over time, forms of payment have included cattle, wampum, notes issued by individual banks (which were IOUs for gold and silver held in their vaults) and currency backed by the “full faith and credit” of the United States.

The current system, in which we carry plastic cards that identify us and vouchsafe our ability to pay the debts we incur to the people who accept them as payment, evolved in the 1950s and ’60s.

To understand who all is in the chain, first you have to get hold of the process. Here’s how it works:

You swipe your card, say, at your favorite deli counter. Several different things happen almost simultaneously.

First, a card reader, the black box in front of the cashier, scans the magnetic stripe on the back of your card. That information is transmitted through an acquiring processor such as First Data or Total System Services Inc. (TSYS), which sends your personal details to the payment network whose logo is on the card – say, Visa or MasterCard.

That company forwards the information to the issuer, such as your bank, which makes sure you have enough money. If you do, the issuer sends an authorization code back down the food chain to the merchant in milliseconds.

The money doesn’t move quite as fast; it’s transmitted to the merchant in a settlement process that happens overnight.

For performing its role in the dance, each intermediary receives a small cut. Last year, those tiny bits added up to an estimated $301 billion in transaction-specific revenues worldwide, according to a report from the Boston Consulting Group.

As a part of that, merchants pay anywhere from 2 percent to 3 percent of the sales price to accept a credit card, and 21 cents plus 0.05 percent of the transaction value to accept debit cards, a rate that’s gone down because of action by Congress.

Innovators want to step inside that system. In return for adding something of value, such as a more seamless experience, they want to receive something of value, either an added fee or information about your buying habits that they can parlay into money.

Take Atlanta-based Sionic Mobile, which asks merchants to pay a 1 percent transaction fee when customers pay with ION Rewards. Today, shoppers can earn and spend those loyalty rewards at roughly 25,000 stores nationwide. The rewards program gives them an incentive to do more of their shopping at those stores.

Some merchants (think: Starbucks) have jumped directly into the fray, developing apps that generate codes you can scan at the point of sale to complete a purchase.

Hacking forward
Torimoto is in that mix, an avatar of what’s to come. He’s a former employee of Alpharetta-based CorFire, which helped Google create its first iteration of Wallet and Dunkin Donuts build payments into its mobile app.

As for his own usage of Wallet, arguably the farthest mobile payments have crept in the real world, he’s barely touched it — except of course for that one time in a McDonald’s a year or so ago just to see if it worked.

Most merchants don’t yet have the technology to let him tap his phone rather than swipe a card; others, even some of the big-boxes, are reportedly turning the capability off.

And the points you get on your credit card don’t necessarily get passed through in the same way. Yet.

This year, in Torimoto’s view, won’t be one of breakthroughs. But he does expect spurts of innovation cropping up across the payments horizon.

“Everything, I feel like everything, right now, is almost like a hack job,” he said. But each successful hack accelerates the pace of change. It’s just a matter of time.

About this series
We live in a consumer society, conducting dozens of transactions each week, if not each day. Five years from now, thanks to smartphones, the way those transactions happen may be radically different. Starting today and running through Wednesday, Atlanta-Journal Constitution cyber- security reporter Sean Sposito decodes the dizzying array of emerging technologies and the hidden workings of the banking system to show you what that future may look like. Think: merchant- controlled payment networks, credit and debit cards with computer chips embedded, verification via tokenization, even crypto-currencies. Buckle up, it’s going to be quite a ride.

Sunday: The future of money

Monday: But what about security?

Tuesday: The war for your wallet

Wednesday: Cryptocurrencies, a parallel universe

The local angle
From the inception of the credit card era, Atlanta has been one of the nation’s leading transaction hubs.

At the start, National Data Corp., founded in 1967, was responsible for routing a majority of the country’s payments. The Atlanta company had call centers around the country that shop employees would call to verify credit card purchases.

The sales clerk would read the numbers embossed on the card to someone at the call center, who would enter the information into a computer connected to the buyer’s issuing bank. If the bank said there was enough money, the call center employee would give the sales clerk an authorization code that promised payment.

But everyone wanted to make things faster — the game in payments is speed and ease. By the late 70s, cards had magnetic stripes that encoded the cardholder’s credentials, and the verification process was automated, though it still moved through phone lines.

Today, the significant payment processors with headquarters or offices in the state include Global Payments (an offshoot of National Data Corp), WorldPay, First Data, Elavon and TSYS, among others.

Looking ahead, with the hot action in financial technology all around mobile computing, metro Atlanta is still very much in the mix.

Among the companies based here are Sionic Mobile (a mobile commerce company that maintains loyalty rewards platform for merchants), Cardlytics (an advertising platform company that sits behind debit cards, including Bank of America’s BankAmeriDeals card) and ControlScan (a payments security company).

Square (which has applications for both acceptance and consumer payments) keeps offices at Atlantic Station.

Bitcoin is big here, too. BitPay, which handles the digital currency for merchants, is based in Atlanta.

It’s joined by Coinfirma, a company that provides bitcoin-cloud mining services to folks; CoinX, an Atlanta exchange that’s in private beta while it acquires money transmitter licenses across the country; PlayCoin, a bitcoin payment gateway company; Atlanta Bitcoin, which operates a bitcoin ATM; and CampBX, which maintains a bitcoin trading platform.

What’s what and who’s who

  • Mobile payment: a transaction in which the transfer of funds is initiated using a mobile phone, but not by voice.
  • Point-of-sale purchase: a purchase you make at the counter.
  • Mobile proximity payment: mobile-generated payments that are made at or within the physical proximity of a store’s point-of-sale terminal.
  • Mobile peer-to-peer payment: sending money to another individual using a smartphone app; providers include Dwolla, PayPal and Venmo.
  • Mobile bill payment: a bill payment (for utilities or credit cards, for example) that are authenticated through a mobile handset.
  • Venmo: a service provided by Braintree, which is owned by PayPal, that allows folks to send cash to Facebook friends and others using a smartphone app and web portal.
  • PopMoney: a person-to person-payments service provided by bank tech vendor Fiserv. Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Chase customers, among many others, have access.
  • Square: a Silicon Valley startup that offers a free credit card reader that works with smartphones and tablets.
  • Stripe: a company that provides online businesses with the means of accepting payments. PayNearMe: an electronic transaction network that lets folks pay their rent, utility bils and loans, as well as tarnsfer money, buy tickets, make online purchases; it’s available through convienence stores such as 7-Eleven, Family Dollar and ACE.
  • WePay: Aa company that maintains digital tools for crowdfunding sites and small businesses, allowing them to receive payments.
  • PayPal: the eCommerce arm of eBay, which allows people to make online payments and transfer cash to friends using email, phone, text message or Skype.
  • Braintree: a payment processor, owned by PayPal, that maintains a set of software development tools companies can use to integrate payment capabilities into their apps and online spaces.
  • Crypto-currencies: a digital medium of exchange that’s difficult to counterfeit because it employs cryptography, a branch of mathematics, for security; Bitcoin is the best known one.
  • Google Wallet: a service of the search engine giant that allows people to send money by email and tap and pay with certain smartphones.

Sources: Forrester Research, Google, PayPal, DataMonitor, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, Crunchbase.

Google Wallet distances itself from NFC with Sionic Mobile integration; Mobile Commerce Daily

BY: Rebecca Borison March 21, 2014

Source: Mobile Commerce Daily

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Google Wallet users will now be able to access Google Wallet Instant Buy via Sionic Mobile’s ION Rewards application, getting rid of the wallet’s dependence on near-field communication and switching over to bar codes.

The ION Rewards app gives consumers rewards for paying with the app, and to promote the new Google Wallet integration, consumers will receive double rewards when they checkout using the technology. While Google Wallet requires merchants to accept NFC, this integration translates the digital wallet into a bar code technology, which is more commonly accepted in retail locations.

“I think NFC has held the mobile payments industry back as a whole,” said Ronald Herman, CEO of Sionic Mobile, Atlanta, GA. “As a technology it just never gained traction here. It’s not so much the technology itself, it’s the participants and the environment.”

“I believe it’s held Google Wallet and Isis back,” he said. “It’s unfortunately become the poster child for what goes wrong when you have a lot of interest at stake, whether its banks, carriers or merchants.”

“I think Google Wallet has made some really great steps recently, not that their abandoning NFC, but they’re certainly moving to solutions that don’t require the tapping or direct connection from device to device. I think that’s another reason that Google Wallet combined with ION Rewards is going to gain pretty rapid adoption. Think of us as yet another step in that direction.”

Google rewards
ION Rewards lets consumers purchase products at more than 28,000 retail locations, including Lowe’s, Staples, Sephora and Papa John’s Pizza. For every purchase they make, consumers earn one percent back in ION rewards that they can then spend immediately at the same locations.

Consumers can pay through methods such as electronic checks, Dwolla and now Google Wallet. The app will soon integrate V.me from Visa as well.

Consumers can complete a Google Wallet purchase in two clicks, and all transactions are secured, monitored for fraud 24/7 and covered by Google Wallet Purchase Protection.

When consumers are at the cashier in-store, they simply open the ION Rewards app, enter the total on the point-of-sale and checkout in the app. The app then displays a bar code that the cashier can scan or manually enter into the POS system.

Consumers can only access the “Buy with Google” option on the Android version of ION Rewards since Google Wallet Instant Buy does not yet work on iOS devices.

For a limited time, consumers that pay with their Google Wallet will get paid double ION rewards.

NFC alternative
While Google Wallet started off as an NFC-based solution, it seems to be distancing itself from that technology, or at least creating alternative solutions.

This past November, Google Wallet launched a physical card. While the card still connected to the smartphone app, it signaled that NFC was not enough for Google (see story).

With merchants such as Best Buy and 7-Eleven shutting down their NFC capabilities, Google Wallet is likely to face even more struggles if it continues to bet on the technology (see story).

Integrating Google Wallet in the ION Rewards app represents yet another step in the direction away from NFC.

Added incentive
Besides for its issues with NFC, one of the major setbacks with Google Wallet — and all mobile payments — is that there needs to be an additional benefit to make it more valuable than swiping a card, which is already easy and fast.

With ION Rewards, consumers actually save money by using Google Wallet. This may be enough of an incentive to convince consumers that it is a decent tradeoff for swiping a physical card.

“It’s so much faster and easier to pull out cash or a credit card,” Mr. Herman said. “We think that with the addition of two-tap checkout inside our app, it’s enough of an incentive to use the app and choose to pay that way.”

“Our strategy is let’s make it easy and reward those Google Wallet users for paying with Google Wallet Instant Buy every time they check out,” he said. “We believe that added incentive is enough to not take a card and swipe versus tapping on their phone and paying that way.”

Final Take

Sionic Mobile adds Google Wallet capability to rewards app; Mobile Payments Today

BY: Mobile Payments Today March 20, 2014

Source: Mobile Payments Today

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Sionic Mobile, a mobile-commerce company providing mobile marketing, gifting, payments and rewards, today announced it has added and now features the ability to pay with Google Wallet in its ION Rewards app for Android, available for free in Google Play.

For a limited introductory period, users will get paid double ION rewards, 2 percent of their purchase amount, each time they check out using the “Buy with Google” option. ION bills itself as the first fully digital cloud-based mobile-commerce platform and may be used at more than 25,000 retail and restaurant locations including Lowe’s, Staples, Sephora and Papa John’s Pizza, the company said in an announcement

“When we created ION Rewards, we took a radically different approach by focusing on the customer experience and removing layers of restrictions that hinder traditional rewards programs,” Ronald Herman, CEO of Sionic Mobile, said in a press release. “Our process is simple; ION users get paid each and every time they make purchases using their smartphones. The rewards are instant and there are no limitations on when or how the rewards are used. By adding the ‘Buy with Google’ button, Google Wallet users can now take advantage of these rewards, while maintaining the simplicity, security and convenience of paying with their Android smartphones.”

Google Wallet users can complete a mobile checkout in just two clicks using the Google Wallet Instant Buy feature within the ION Rewards app. Users are then instantly rewarded with IONs that never expire and spend like cash at thousands of fuel, restaurant and retail locations nationwide, the company said in an announcement. All transactions are secured, monitored for fraud 24/7 and covered by Google Wallet Purchase Protection.

Sionic Mobile Doubles ION Incentives for Users Paying with Google Wallet

BY: Business Wire Mar. 20, 2014

Source: Business Wire

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ATLANTA – Sionic Mobile, an mCommerce company providing mobile marketing, gifting, payments and rewards, today announced it has added and now features the the ability to pay with Google Wallet in its ION Rewards® app for Android, available for free in Google Play.  For a limited introductory period, users will get paid double ION rewards, two percent of their purchase amount, each time they checkout using the “Buy with Google” option. ION is the first fully digital cloud-based mCommerce platform and may be used at more than 25,000 retail and restaurant locations including Lowe’s, Staples, Sephora and Papa John’s Pizza.

“When we created ION Rewards, we took a radically different approach by focusing on the customer experience and removing layers of restrictions that hinder traditional rewards programs,” said Ronald Herman, CEO of Sionic Mobile. “Our process is simple; ION users get paid each and every time they make purchases using their smartphones. The rewards are instant and there are no limitations on when or how the rewards are used. By adding the “Buy with Google” button, Google Wallet users can now take advantage of these rewards, while maintaining the simplicity, security and convenience of paying with their Android smartphones.”

Google Wallet users can complete a mobile checkout in just two clicks using the Google Wallet Instant Buy feature within the ION Rewards app.  Users are then instantly rewarded with IONs that never expire and spend like cash at thousands of fuel, restaurant and retail locations nationwide.  All transactions are secured, monitored for fraud 24/7 and covered by Google Wallet Purchase Protection.

About Sionic Mobile
Atlanta-based Sionic Mobile markets to smartphone consumers and rewards them for every mobile checkout. The mCommerce company utilizes mobile devices and the cloud to connect merchants with nearby, ready-to-spend consumers. The company is the maker and provider of ION — the first, fully digital mobile promotions, gift cards, donations, payments and rewards apps for phones and tablets. Merchants use ION Loyalty® to increase traffic, sales & margins, reduce credit card fees and get good customers back more often. Consumers use ION Rewards® to earn IONs at every checkout then spend them like cash, send e-gift cards, IONs and fuel to other ION users and donate to favorite non-profits at no extra cost. The free apps support iOS and most Android devices.

MEDIA CONTACTS
Anna Stanley: 678.781.3072
Kathryn Farmer: 678.781.7208

Taking action: Converting mobile users into loyal customers; fastcasual.com

BY: Ronald Herman March 3, 2014

Source: Fast Casual

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“Epic,” “monumental”, “radical”, “unnerving.” These are just a few of the headlines describing Facebook’s unprecedented $19 billion acquisition of mobile messaging provider, WhatsApp. Facebook’s announcement stunned and surprised the market, sparking debate on the risks versus rewards of such a bold move. Despite the mixed opinions on Facebook’s latest venture, this type of announcement is yet another indicator of how critical the mobile channel is to Facebook’s future success. This statement holds true for nearly every consumer-facing merchant, including quick service and fast casual restaurants.

Consumers are increasingly reliant on their smartphones, and according to Experian, have more than tripled the amount of time spent on their mobile device since 2011 alone. Researchers have indicated 2014 will be the tipping point for mobile usage as the number of mobile users starts to surpass the number of traditional PC users.

Actively engaging customers via the mobile channel is not the same as simply being mobile friendly. Forward-thinking restaurants are leveraging mobile to drive foot traffic, attract and retain customers and boost revenue. Take for example, Starbucks. More than 10 million customers are actively using the coffee chain’s mobile app to complete more than 5 million mobile transactions in stores each week, and this number continues to grow at an alarming rate.

Developing an effective mobile marketing program can seem daunting. The following strategies are designed to help optimize any mobile marketing program, converting on-the-go consumers to loyal, repeat customers.

Understand your audience

Mobile is all about immediacy. In the age of instant gratification, consumers’ attention spans are limited. With more and more marketers vying for this limited attention, delivering a clear, concise message is critical to ensuring your message cuts through the clutter, reaching the intended mobile users. Delivering the right message, at the right time, to the right user sounds simple, but is one of the most pressing challenges hindering the success of mobile marketing campaigns.

For restaurants, taking time to better understand your audience, how and when users view your mobile content, tracking behavioral patterns and page flow data can significantly bolster the effectiveness of your mobile strategy. Determining how many of your current customers access your website via a mobile device is a good starting point in creating an audience profile. Additional analysis of user activity, such as the type of content being accessed, length of time spent on different topics and pages, and the type of device used to access content (tablet vs. smartphone) can all be used to create more compelling, relevant content.

Converting users to customers

Effective mobile marketing hinges on the ability to motivate users to actually interact with your brand. Providing relevant incentives that users can act on immediately is one of the most powerful strategies marketers can leverage to turn mobile users into customers. Delivering offers such as discounts, free products and special promotions should be timed so that users can instantly take advantage of the savings. Keep in mind offers should be easy to understand, and easy to redeem. For every additional click required to complete the promotion, you run the risk of losing more than half your audience.

Conversion rates of incentive-based offers significantly increase when coupled with location-based tools. A recent report from Verve Mobile found that restaurants that incorporated location-based components into their mobile marketing efforts nearly doubled their click-through rates as compared to previous campaigns that did not use location tools. Location-based marketing allows restaurants to not only increase mobile ad impressions, but also drive foot traffic and boost in-store sales.

Next steps

Finally, restaurants must be willing to give up control, allowing mobile users to control the interaction. Although this can be counterintuitive to traditional marketing strategies, giving customers the ability to select how and when they receive updates, the types of promotions and offers they wish to receive and the frequency of the messages received increases conversion rates and builds long-term brand loyalty. Receiving multiple offers for irrelevant products or services can be as crippling to mobile marketing efforts, as ignoring the channel altogether.

Well-rounded mobile marketing strategies marry compelling content and relevant/timely promotions with location-based tools in an environment controlled by the user. In an increasingly competitive market, mobile marketing is no longer optional. Chances are, if you aren’t connecting with your customers via the mobile channel, your competitors are, and business is being lost. The time to act is now.

Ronald D. Herman is founder and chief executive officer of Sionic Mobile, a mCommerce company that utilizes mobile devices and the cloud to connect merchants with nearby, ready-to-spend consumers.