There are digital currencies, most notably (notoriously?) Bitcoin, which are offering an alternative way to purchase.
Coinbase will allow you to buy and sell Bitcoin from your smartphone on an app. There is a certain momentum on sites such as Ebay to facilitate purchases using Bitcoin. Paypal, one would feel the ideal partner, have made moves toward the platform through their Venmo app. There is resistance to the 3% commission charge proving a barrier to prospective younger users.
Trying to set off from a standing start is always difficult so when Facebook, the biggest company in social media, get involved, the mainstream could follow. Facebook are adept at attracting ‘early adopters’ and have experimented with business models in the past. There is a more advanced version on Chinese messaging app, WeChat, which has sent over one billion payments from and to its users.
Maybe what we need is some style? Introducing Apple with its Apple Pay. This works both for online payments and ‘bricks & mortar’ stores. Currently only available in the US and requiring an iphone6 or iwatch. Apple has managed to sign up a long list of banks and offline retail stores to accept the payment transfers.
I want to draw a comparison of Bitcoin to posted letters. There was a time, not too long ago, when a person would receive letters from friends and family sent through the postal services of the world. Strict security agreements allow letters to move undisturbed through borders and across seas. Every country has a state owned postal agency. So what is the difference between a postal agency and a bank? One difference is of course that the internet’s electronic communicating channels, emails, Skype, etc, have replaced the need and use of hand-written letters, while banks developed their services to include online activity. Now the only letters coming through the door are from Banks, Insurance companies and Government sources. Could there become a time where the utility of a bank diminishes? If there is no central administration, no reserves and no transaction cost?
In the early days of email communication the greatest problem, after dialing up service, was who to email! Right now in Ireland there are very few places where you can spend your hard earned Bitcoin. A full list can be found www.bitcoinirl.ie of Irish businesses willing to accept Bitcoin for payment.
There is more than just the established system of central banking and government power brokers that Bitcoin, or any other crypto-currency, need to overcome. There are sections of the Bitcoin community that are only interested in financial gain who use the platform as a commodity to be traded. They have been on a roller coaster in terms of the selling price of bitcoins in the last 18 months with the price soaring from €250 to €1100. Then there is the section who thinks Bitcoin could be a vehicle to bring an end to centralised governments and free the world to global transactions and localised free-trade.
Perhaps more likely is that governments will take the better advantages of crypto-currencies and apply layers of security and assurance to promote the platform to the general public and open up a global market. There is the case some economists have made for zero-interest, or negative interest, loans to be made in Bitcoin to third-world countries who lack banking infrastructure to enable growth and inclusion.
From a marketing perspective questions you should ask about your organisation:
If you are running a small coffee shop then you should consider utilising Bitcoin transactions. They are free to accept and may create a buzz for you as your customers decide to ‘give it a go’. You would need an optical scanner, iphone or ipad, to take the message from the customer’s phone. The transaction is instant. At the end of the day all Bitcoin transactions could then be moved regular currency in the coffee shop’s bank account.
Taking a transaction over an internet shop requires no scanner and the payment is confirmed within an hour. Simply await clearance before shipping the product.
I hope this post sparks some interest in Bitcoin usage. There are many people who love to be involved in breaking technology trends and if a ‘critical mass’ to be achieved the early brands will benefit most.