Blockchain In Retail: 2019 Status Check

Bitcoin has had its ups and downs – and more downs than ups lately. But blockchain, the technology that makes up the foundation of the cryptocurrency known as Bitcoin, has made leaps and strides in its use in business applications. Retailers find themselves having to straddle both worlds – the world of cryptocurrency for payments (actually accepting something like Bitcoin as a payment option from consumers), and blockchain technology, which is rapidly becoming foundational in some supply chain applications – and beyond.

Blockchain Technology Evolution

To understand those applications, it helps to have a grounding in the technology. The basics of distributed ledgers, smart contracts, and tokens to govern access to those things are roads that have become well-traveled, so I won’t cover them here (if you want a physical-world analogy, though, what Banksy does with his Certificates of Authenticity for printed art is pretty close – it just lacks the public nature of the ledger). But there have been some interesting new developments beyond these fundamentals that anyone who cares about blockchain in retail ought to pay attention to:

  • The expansion of cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin and Ethereum get most of the attention, but with Facebook’s announcement of its own coin and continued speculation that Amazon might be looking at its own cryptocurrency, the profile of consumer adoption of cryptocurrencies may change drastically in a few years’ time. And it may be competitors’ currencies that retailers end up having to accept, where a retailer like Amazon or Alibaba create an ecosystem large enough that they can launch or support their own internal currency, which then has value to marketplace sellers and beyond.
  • Initial Coin Offerings or ICO’s. This was probably the…

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