Sionic Mobile’s cloud-based technology powers the loyalty and mobile payment apps used by millions of consumers. By Jim Harris
Consumers and retailers in ever-increasing numbers look to smartphones to make shopping and marketing even easier. Developing and maintaining the apps that make these experiences so convenient, however, takes a great deal of knowledge and commitment.
Sionic Mobile works tirelessly to perfect the technology that many of its users might take for granted. Established in 2010, the company initially launched its mobile reward app engine – the ION Commerce Engine™ (ICE) – in shops and restaurants in 42 U.S. airports. After learning that the apps powered by the ICE were not being used or adopted in the way that it had hoped, the company sought to improve the technology.
“We initially underestimated what it took for the people behind the counter to process a mobile reward,” says Ronald Herman, CEO of the Atlanta-based company. “We regrouped and told ourselves that we had to make that part of the process better.
“Over the past six years, we’ve gone to the marketplace and tested our various components to see how they’ve worked, including testing behavior behind the counter with merchant staff. We believe we have perfected that,” he adds. “Then we tested our mobile payment platform and improved our fraud-detection system. We have a low-cost, quick-to-market way to test the functionality of our platform.”
The cloud-based mobile commerce company develops and provides loyalty applications for major corporations including General Motors, which uses ICE within its MyBuick, MyChevrolet, MyCadillac and MyGMC apps. Each of those apps includes the OnStar AtYourService platform, which offers special offers and rewards to customers. “That’s where our content lives,” Herman says.
The company also provides mobile pay apps to merchants. Sionic Mobile partners with JP Morgan Chase to process payments made through these apps. These include payments made through Visa cards, as the bank is one of the largest issuers of Visa in the nation.
In addition to powering apps offered by car brands, hotels, airlines, retailers and others, Sionic Mobile’s ICE system can be found within its own apps. The ION Rewards app, targeted to consumers, offers rewards points for goods from many national businesses. Mobile Rewards Marketplace (MRM), is a web and mobile app offered to businesses. Both apps are available for iOS and Android phones.
Sionic Mobile’s in-house development team writes the code for its mobile apps as well as for the ICE platform. One of the company’s contracted partners, The Websuasion Group LLC, developed and provides coding for Sionic Mobile’s website, web-based apps and MRM web portals. Sionic Mobile, its merchants and other partners use the portals to track transaction and customer information.
“Our web portals are an integral part of our solution; they allow users to see everything that’s happening on our apps in real time,” Herman says. “The Websuasion Group has done a good job of making our web apps accessible from all devices.”
Sionic Mobile is now in what Herman describes as an “extreme growth mode” as a result of many new users its partners are bringing to its Marketplace. The company is increasing the number of merchant locations in which its apps are used from 108,000 to 2.2 million nationwide. “In the next 15 to 18 months we expect, between all of our mobile app partners, to have more than 200 million apps already present on users’ first or second screen,” he says.
To handle this new traffic, Sionic Mobile is working closely with Chase to ensure payments are processed effectively as well as investing heavily in cloud storage. The company’s platform resides in Amazon’s cloud and is supported by servers located regionally for fail-safe and redundancy.
Sionic Mobile is also investing heavily in its proprietary GeoSense® iBeacon network. The company is equipping all of its merchant locations with iBeacons, which support push notifications to apps equipped with its beacon listening code. These notifications include welcome messages as well as one-tap mobile checkouts, both of which drive more frequent app use. “We’re expecting, by this time next year, to have more beacons in more places than anyone else,” Herman says.