When people hear about cryptocurrencies, their first question is often, “What can I buy with it?” It’s a question worth asking, but for most industry applications it misses the point completely. Yes, bitcoin serves as a medium of exchange. But in terms of its revolutionary potential, its underlying technology—the blockchain—is its most valuable attribute. Blockchain technologies can benefit the retail marketing sector in a number of important ways.

A big one is convenience. Cryptocurrency wallets are as portable as the internet, which makes them more accessible than many banks. Tina Mulqueen reports for Forbes that “only 1.2 billion people around the world have access to a bank account with payment capabilities, while there are approximately 5 billion unique mobile phone subscribers.” With digital wallets on our smartphones, we have many more retailers available to us—and vice versa—provided that they’ve invested in such convenient peer-to-peer payment options. And because wallets easily cross borders, they’re a faster and cheaper way for us to shop in any environment.

Brick-and-mortar retailers can also use blockchain to maximize the usefulness of already-existing infrastructures. Mulqueen quotes Abhi Pitti, CEO of Nucleus Vision, on how beacons can be improved. He says they are limited mainly by a lack of access to our data, but that “when we merge in blockchain technology, all private databases such as banks, third-party apps on a mobile device, and credit card companies can open customer databases to share and monetize data”. This allows companies to convert troves of new information into high-quality experiences for all of us.

Blockchain technology allows for microtransactions, too, which can record proactive online behaviors to the public ledger. This function is particularly useful for managing incentive programs. By offering blockchain-based rewards, companies encourage superfans (yes, you!) to mobilize the community and optimize customer referrals. In combination with its value to loyalty programs, microtransactions make it easier for companies to find and keep us.

Many believe this is just the tip of the iceberg. Blockchain technologies are rapidly going mainstream. If retailers adopt and develop upon these technologies, our relationships with our favorite companies could change in ways we can scarcely imagine.

Featured Image: Free illustration: Communication, Internet, Internet of Things, Tile by Geralt, Pixabay

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