The blockchain revolution

18 January 2019

Blockchain payment apps are heralding in yet another big change to retail. What happens in a blockchain is that it constructs, codifies and commits every action, payment or transaction into a ‘block’ of data. When these blocks are joined together, they form a so-called blockchain that is virtually impossible to break into. Safe transactions guaranteed, just like that.

Financial institutions to disappear?

In a 2016 report, the World Economic Forum stated that the blockchain will wreak havoc on the financial world. Other experts have predicted that banks will ultimately be wiped out altogether. For now, though, the blockchain is still far from perfect: the troubles surrounding bitcoin (a blockchain currency) have surely made this clear. Another downside is that criminals have handily swooped up this kind of currency as a way to carry on their shady practices and go undetected. Of course, these growing pains are being eliminated as we speak – universities, venture capitalists and fintech businesses are all working hard to take full advantage of blockchain technology, and iron out the glitches.

New apps for everyone

Everywhere you look, new blockchain apps are popping up, ranging from alternatives for YouTube and Wikipedia, or cloud storage and peer-to-peer payments. At present the United Nations are researching how smartphone-accessible solutions – which use the blockchain – can provide payment options to the very poorest people in the world, thus bypassing the need for a third party. Over 2 billion people have no access to a bank account, which means they are unable to take part in the global financial game. Might smartphones, blockchain and crypto-currencies help to make a difference to them? Let’s hope so.

Pay without noticing

Onlification makes a difference to how we pay. The onlife consumer is eager to have a fully integrated customer journey, 24/7 and 365+ days a year, wherever they are. A different payment option for every different retailer is wildly irritating. Any solution for this irritant is most welcome. Still, for most consumers, the blockchain seems pure science fiction, just as the Internet seemed back in the early 1990s. Sure, we’d heard of it and read about it, but in our wildest dreams we could not have imagined its impact. If the blockchain lives up to its promise, the road to the no-click-buy is wide open. Now, that’s the stuff that dreams are made of, for retailers and consumers alike.

Next week, I will start discussing the ins and outs of delivery, or as it is often called: the last-mile dilemma.

This is blog 40, 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 for UK and US, and Danish editions), WSCP Singapore (English edition for SE Asia), Post & Telecom Publishers Beijing (Chinese edition), Hoepli (Italian edition). Most recently, the book was published in Korean in December 2018 and it is being translated in German, to be published in spring 2019. Additional translations are in preparation for 2019.

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