Blockchain and the retail customer experience
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No matter what industry you are in, you might have heard the word blockchain spoken in awe, or you might hear about how bitcoin is either the best investment in the world or a tool for criminals. The blockchain itself, however, is often misunderstood.
The blockchain in reality, can benefit almost any industry from restaurants to digital signage manufacturers.
Let's take a look at the what blockchain is, and how it can help transform the retail industry.
What is the blockchain?
The blockchain is a decentralized ledger, which is unchangeable and fully transparent.
The bitcoin wiki describes it as: "a transaction database shared by all nodes participating in a system. A full copy of a currency's block chain contains every transaction ever executed in the currency. With this information, one can find out how much value belonged to each address at any point in history."
This means the blockchain acts as a public ledger, where every transaction is recorded and registered by a group of users. It is the backbone of bitcoin, a decentralized virtual currency.
Users confirm transactions through a process known as mining, where users lend their computer processing power to solve mathematical equations to confirm and register the bitcoin transactions.
While bitcoin was the first to use blockchain, it is not the only app for it. Ethereum also recently developed its own blockchain, and every cryptocurrency uses some form of the blockchain as well.
What can it be used for?
You might be thinking to yourself: this all sounds great, but what does the blockchain do for me? I don't use virtual currency. Well, the blockchain has a number of uses.
For one, it can enable smart contracts, which Wikipedia defines as, "a computer protocol intended to digitally facilitate, verify, or enforce the negotiation or performance of a contract. Smart contracts allow the performance of credible transactions without third parties."
The Ethereum blockchain can help automate this process, by pushing data to a user generated contract to execute on a certain date. This can be incredibly useful for banks or other financial institutions looking to automate large international contracts.
Other uses of the blockchain include: identity management, automated compliance, secure voting, supply chain management and decentralized ownership.
Why you should be on the cutting edge
The blockchain hasn't reached the tipping point of overall acceptance, yet. And there are a lot of unsavory "businesses" looking to capitalize on the blockchain craze by running various scams.
That being said, this technology has the chance to revolutionize the way many industries do business. That is why you need to be on the cutting edge of this technology.
When it comes to new technologies, if you fall behind you fail. Blockbuster, for example, failed when it arrived late to the streaming game. You need to start doing your research into this technology to discover how it can impact and improve your business.
Where blockchain fits into the retail customer experience
The blockchain will mainly help in two key ways, by providing greater transparency to customers and by giving customers more control over their loyalty programs.
With blockchain powered supply chains, customers can gain full disclosure over where their product came from and how it got to the storefront. They can easily see, for example, if a piece of meat was handled properly or if their coffee beans were ethically sourced.
Retailers can also use blockchain powered loyalty programs to boost customer experience. These loyalty programs can generate tokens, which users can trade or sell amongst themselves, or redeem for purchases.
While blockchain is still on the horizon, big retailers like Wal-mart are already using blockchain powered supply chains. It's only a matter of time before every retailer is using blockchain in some capacity.
Benefits blockchain provides to retail
As mentioned above, retailers can have better supply chain management due to blockchain. Because blockchain technology is inherently immutable, retailers can confidently track products from production to the storefront. This particularly useful for preventing outbreaks such as e-coli in food products.
The system can also help retailers with identity management, by confirming a customer's identity on the blockchain or an employee's identity for security reasons.
The smart contract technology behind the Ethereum blockchain can also help retailers execute financial contracts more easily than before.
For more information, check out Blockchain Tech News, an expert source of blockchain commentary.
Bradley Cooper is a Technology Editor for DigitalSignageToday.com and BlockchainTechNews.com. His background is in information technology, advertising, and writing.www