Pundits have dubbed blockchain a solution looking for a problem. Originally used solely for financial transactions within the crypto-currency market, the potential of this technology has grown to offer retailers horizontal applications across areas such as payments, customer relationship management, data and analytics.
In this article, we examine how this versatile tech is poised to revolutionize the retail sector – and what impact it could have on your event scheduling process.
What is blockchain?
At the heart of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies lies blockchain.
It’s an open, distributed ledger that permanently and verifiably records transactions between parties. The information recorded is real-time, unhackable and can be accessed by anyone with the right key, so in a blockchain-enabled future, every agreement, process, task, payment, or customer interaction can be digitally recorded, stored, and shared.
Deeds, intellectual property, and contracts can be shifted online, minimizing paperwork and speeding up transactions.
But how will this affect retailers?
1. Transparency in the supply chain
The recent rise in ethical consumerism and interest in the origins of our products is often at odds with the development of increasingly complex supply chains. But the nature of blockchain’s unalterable, commonly accessible records could bridge the gap. This technology enables customers to track goods through every link in the supply chain, from raw materials to production to the final product on the shelf.
For example, if a supermarket was selling a banana cake, the blockchain data would not only tell you exactly where and when that cake was made and who by, but would include data about individual ingredients so the retailer could prove the manufacturers were using fair trade or organic bananas and sugar, check whether allergens had been included and also that the products was fresh.
Not only could this development add a new level of trust to the brand-customer relationship, unalterable digital recording of every stage in the supply chain process could help ensure authenticity, reducing the risk of counterfeiting often prevalent in the pharmaceuticals, luxury goods, arts, antiques and electronics sectors.
WAVE, a company based in Israel, are already offering blockchain technology to help companies track their supply chain, making the process completely secure and paperless.
2. Boosting customer loyalty
Blockchain offers accurate, instant data integrity – which is hugely applicable to data-reliant customer loyalty schemes. The nature of the technology ensures that data is captured at every stage of customer interaction, meaning qualitative analytics will be improved along with customer modeling capabilities.
Some retailers are actively exploring blockchain capabilities within customer loyalty programs by allowing consumers to store ubiquitous loyalty points within a single wallet rather than accruing them within isolated membership schemes. Expanding the utility of the points means customers would be increasingly engaged with loyalty programs as points and rewards become easier to track and redeem.
The wealth of information could even be tied into artificial intelligence via big data analysis to create personalized communications for each customer, offering the right reward at the right time.
3. Increasing logistical efficiencies
Tracking shipments will become much easier with blockchain. Every logistical stage of a product's journey will have real-time information on who handled it, plus where and when, resulting in fewer stolen, lost or damaged goods. Suppliers could even track factors such as temperature and humidity throughout the shipping journey.
Not only would this level of detail improve logistical efficiencies, it has the added benefit of identifying items needed for recall – extremely useful when tracing unsafe products or the source of food-borne illnesses, thus preventing highly expensive mass recalls. Walmart is already harnessing the tech to keep track of each piece of pork it sources from China: where it’s from, processed, stored and the sell-by-date.
Blockchain has huge potential to streamline transport and shipping – a process that often involves manually filling out over 20 complex documents. The easy sharing and distribution of data could reduce paperwork, in turn reducing operational costs and increasing efficiency.
4. Payments and e-commerce
Until this point, blockchain has been most widely known as a secure and trusted system for tracking transactions and ownership of crypto-currencies like Bitcoin.
Blockchain not only makes it possible for retailers to accept crypto-currency payments which brings advantages within cross-border payments and micro-payments, but the digital records created will streamline the returns and refunds process. And using smart contracts with blockchain could also mean instant payments, automated refunds and more.
Several global companies are leading the path, having adapted their systems to process Bitcoin transactions. This includes online travel giant Expedia and e-commerce platform Shopify.
5. Protecting consumer privacy
Our current system sees consumers giving personal data to every company they interact with, from identity to bank details to health records. Each company subsequently stores the data in their own siloed database, with each silo acting as a potential point of failure. Firms have received reams of negative press following hacking breaches and data loss, leading to plummeting brand perception and consumer trust.
If successfully adapted to be private, blockchain could be used to store this information in a single, decentralized, unhackable ledger – accessible only to those with the correct private cryptographic key. Consumers would even be able to control what level of information they chose to share with retailers.
Will blockchain affect retail event scheduling?
As the world’s leading event scheduling software provider, we believe blockchain could offer retail significant advantages to your loyalty schemes and view of your customers.
Blockchain makes it easier to confirm consumer or employee identity for security reasons. If this data were fed into our event scheduling software, your customer experience would be slicker, quicker, and frictionless. With aggregated data, not only would identifying the right events for the right customers become easier, your customer service or sales team would be fully equipped with all the information needed for their role, from contact history to recommended incentives.
Ideally, our event scheduling software would feed granular information straight into your CRM program to build increasingly detailed profiles of your customers. Even better, the accessible nature of blockchain means it would be updated instantly and accessible by all departments that needed it.
To learn more, check out our free eBook about transforming the customer experience with in-store events.
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