The technology called blockchain is what lies behind digital currencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum. Still far from being perfect, it is likely to have an enormous impact on the world of onlife retail. The blockchain is a mechanism to automatically guarantee the authenticity and integrity of transactions. An open network, similar to the Internet, in the cloud, is how it’s done. Nobody is in charge and no one can claim ownership.

Look closer and learn that the blockchain is in fact an advanced digital structure of data – consisting of millions of blocks of information that belong together. Each of those millions of blockchain configurations has its own data verification method and way of operating. For onlife retail, possible uses of this technology are the exchange of information regarding contracts or financial transactions.

Behind the technology lies powerful cryptography, ensuring its safety. The key strength – not to mention its unicity, setting it apart from Internet – of the blockchain is that you can only add new data to existing blocks. The data that is in those existing blocks, and joined-up blocks of data, cannot be adapted or deleted. It’s there to stay. Hacking the blockchain is supposedly almost impossible, just as manipulating it is. The thousands of participants would notice instantly, because their blockchain is the original. You could compare it to Wikipedia or Linux, where people are always monitoring and checking new information for accuracy and veracity.

The end of Airbnb and Uber?
Even though blockchain technology is still very much in its infancy, the Bitcoin and Ethereum already use this technology. This has naturally caught the full attention of banks and financial institutions. Users in the blockchain are constantly exchanging information — and validating that information as they go — rendering any third party intermediary obsolete for the matching up of supply and demand. Not only does the blockchain then present a real threat for traditional intermediaries such as banks, but what is left of the added value of businesses such as Airbnb and Uber if a blockchain-based platform allowed consumers to get in touch directly with an apartment renter or an on-shift cabdriver?

In onlife retail, blockchain technology mostly translates into a safe means of buying. A startup called Monetha recently began creating an Ethereum payment solution which is a kind of blend of Trustpilot and Paypal. They have already landed a strategic partnership with the largest online retailer in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, called

5 Obvious advantages of the blockchain
Provided the technology develops according to plan, privacy worries will become a thing of the past and we will all be able to transfer money to each other without needing a bank. All the information in (web)stores on goods and services will be absolutely reliable – an appealing concept to retailers and consumers both. All retailers need to do next, is to tap into the potential operating advantages and start using it to offer even better personal service and unlimited safety guarantees to their customers.

According to the Huffington Post, blockchain has five obvious advantages: low cost, transparency, speed, security and speed. For example, even if a customer came across falsified goods, they can be tracked and recorded. By implication, untrustworthy sellers would be weeded out fast: people would just refuse to do business with them. (E)-commerce and finance becoming more transparent and more accessible, even to the 37% of the world’s population who has no access to regular banks.

 Blogs from my book

This is blog 13, based on my book ‘The end of online shopping. The future of retail in an always connected world’, published by Business Contact (Dutch/Flemish editions), Nubiz (English edition) Post & Telecom Publishers, Beijing (Chinese edition, from Q1 2018). The book will also be translated into Danish, German, Italian and Portuguese in 2018.