Blockchain is a technology that can be used for several purposes. The characteristics of this technology make it by definition suitable for many applications. From A.I to logistics, the ability to transfer raw information on a secure network has made blockchain and distributed ledger technologies an important technological tool the past few years.
The most famous application of blockchain is in the financial sector; the cryptocurrencies. This new kind of digital assets running on various blockchains are creating an alternative way to make financial transactions. Given their accessibility and security, cryptocurrencies seem appropriate for uses in the retail business. That is what we are going to explore in this article.
Why cryptocurrencies in the Retail business?
A word about retail business and cryptocurrencies
The retail business is the economic sector in which firms sell goods or services to individual customers. We are not here looking at corporate expenses, meaning amounts of money paid for a trade are significantly lower and types of goods and services are different.
Most of the purchases made by individuals are done via conventional means of payment; cash, credit card payment or check. However, we are witnessing a rise of alternative payment methods, being mainly electronic payments. Regular commercial banks used to be the only actors to have the right to propose payment methods, nowadays several actors can provide electronic wallets or online payment solutions.
Those new payment solutions are faster, more mobile and more flexible ways to make purchases. Blockchain is taking those electronic payments further with its financial applications; crypto currencies.
A cryptocurrency is a decentralized currency built on a blockchain network. Each owner of cryptocurrency has a private identification number and a blockchain address that act just like bank account ID.
Users of a cryptocurrency use those addresses to do transactions and every validated transaction is available on the network, meaning that any user can see the transactions made.
Cryptocurrencies are available on mobile devices and transactions are made in a very short amount of time with low transactions fees, making them particularly suited for small transactions.
Why retail business is a relevant application for cryptocurrencies?
Digital assets used in the retail business sector could transform the whole industry. They are free to use so we are here talking about lower banking fees for retail businesses, increasing their profits. Transactions are automatically registered into the blockchain network, forming a huge ledger that anyone can access, it is very simple to prove that a blockchain transaction actually happened.
The owner of the business can also go into his transaction history on his business wallet to trace back his cash flow. As everything is done digitally, both customers and business don’t have to deal with cash anymore, sparing them all the risks attached to physical money.
With the rise of digital and alternative payments, cryptocurrencies could have a role to play in the future way of doing retail business.
So far, digital assets seem appropriate to be implemented in retail businesses, however, there are obstacles to a growing use of coins for customers.
Blockchain and cryptocurrency markets are still young industries. Even if more and more people have interest in blockchain tech or crypto currency, we are still currently at the beginning of those markets.
Digital assets are considered differently depending on the country you are, many institutionnals actors are still very skeptical about the development of those assets and contribute to the bad reputation of cryptocurrencies. For all those reasons, digital coins are a highly volatile market and can react very fast to market events, such as a huge amount of crypto being sold or bought, or an announcement that impacts a particular crypto currency or the overall blockchain industry.
The real problem is the following; a solid currency must not fluctuate too much in value, otherwise it becomes irrelevant for a day to day use or savings purposes. If the price of something you buy regularly changes very often, it is not a suitable system for retail business that actually would need a more stable currency.
Necessity to have a blockchain wallet
Volatility being the first obstacle to a mass adoption of digital currencies into the retail business, the second is a more technical issue ; to actually own digital assets, you must have a physical or digital wallet compatible with the cryptocurrency you wanna store.
That means you also have to be familiar with blockchain technology and how a virtual wallet works. No need to be a dev to successfully send or receive coins on a blockchain wallet but it requires the correct instructions.
To propose to its customers a cryptocurrency payment solution, a company must also educate them about how to use this solution and make sure that customers use their wallet correctly by giving proper instructions.
Not the same market penetration around the planet
Innovations aren’t accepted the same way everywhere, especially when it comes to disrupt well-established markets with powerful actors such as the payment/banking industry. Some populations and cultures are very fond of disruptive innovations like Korea or Japan, while others are very skeptical about it, like France.
Payments using blockchain technologies and cryptocurrencies change our consumption habits and we are witnessing very different reactions around the globe. Having said that, it can be difficult to actually shop using blockchain payments in a country where very few stores or individuals have adopted this new way to conduct transactions.
The practical and very mobile aspects of crypto currencies make this new kind of assets perfectly suitable for retail business. Fast transactions, low fees and the protection against currencies rates are valuable properties for individuals customers wherever they are. To counter the side effects of cryptocurrencies such as volatility, the perfect solution would be a stable coin (=crypto currency which price is design to stay relatively the same over time), commonly accepted by retail businesses.
More and more shops are accepting crypto currencies as a payment solution but digital assets can also be spend on P2P marketplaces, like Cartam, where you can spend your bitcoins or ethers with other users.
Why we are still waiting for a mass adoption of payment with crypto currencies, especially in Europe, P2P local transactions in cryptocurrencies are the first step of a major change in the way individual customers make purchases.
Written by : Axel Baechelen COO & Co-Founder