Cryptocurrency and Retail — Is There a Chance for the Future?

During the last year, the US Dollar has been rapidly devaluing, so its buying power dropped down. Although many American citizens are grateful to their government for the financial support it has provided, the officials have been widely criticized for printing trillions of dollars and thus deliberately lowering the dollar’s value. Goldman analysts predict USD to lose up to 20% of its price in the next few years.

While the Federal Reserve money printer “went BRRR”, Bitcoin has been very strong. An expected after-halving rapid growth has surpassed all expectations: we’ve witnessed a 10x growth since March 2020 and a 3x growth since November. Although no one knows what is to happen with Bitcoin next, there is a strong anti-inflationary pattern built in its code: there will never be more than 21 million Bitcoins. No one will ever be capable of printing a single Satoshi over the current circulating supply.

This is the factor why many are so enthusiastic about Bitcoin: they believe there won’t ever be a reason for it to significantly drop in price (market corrections don’t count). However, this speaks more for the point of view that now it’s more about Bitcoin as a store of value rather than a means of payment for everyday use.

Will cryptocurrency ever replace fiat for such purposes as buying a pizza? Let’s see how well digital coins are feeling in retail today, can you freely shop for Bitcoin, and what prospects they have in this regard.

Retail and Crypto to Date

The number of merchants accepting Bitcoin as payment is still relatively low. Microsoft, Tesla, and Overstock.com are among the largest ones where you can buy something with Bitcoin. Unfortunately, you still can’t buy a single thing with Bitcoin on Amazon.

Recently, PayPal has enabled payments in cryptocurrency for its 360 million users worldwide. This news has stimulated Bitcoin’s growth and can become the first major step towards cryptocurrency sales, the abundance of Bitcoin shopping sites and crypto shops.

For many businesses unfamiliar with crypto, the new splash of activity in the market may look a little disorienting. People should be more familiar with the technology to understand all the benefits that crypto shopping brings and to accept Bitcoin for business. The more simple and clear crypto payment solutions for the retail market are designed, the more it wins, and the more businesses accept crypto payments.

Legal Constraints for Mass Crypto Adoption

According to Fidelity Survey, over a third of all financial institutions have ever invested in cryptocurrency. However, policymakers in the retail segment are much more skeptical about blockchain in retail banking. Although cryptocurrencies are legal in a wide number of countries, only very few of them have acknowledged Bitcoin as legal tender. For example, in France, you can buy some goods with Bitcoin because some retail companies accept it.

Authorities argue that digital coins are too volatile for daily cryptocurrency usage. They also point to the involvement of crypto in the scam and all other sorts of illicit activity.

Three Examples: USA, China, and India

In the USA, Bitcoin is legal but is considered a commodity, not a currency. The crypto regulation is shared between two bodies — Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). Since the 2017’s ICO era, they’ve been rather tough against custodial cryptocurrency exchanges, though the regulations are still not too clear for crypto businesses in some respects. Bitcoin and other currencies are rarely accepted in offline retail locations.

In China, Bitcoin is also a virtual commodity, but that doesn’t give it much preference — it’s legal to hold and trade it, but all crypto exchanges in the country are banned, and a big part of the crypto infrastructure unavailable. Although Bitcoin mining prospers in China, no one can even think of crypto as a means of payment in retail. However, one digital currency will nevertheless soon be available for everyday use in China — this is the digital yuan launched by the Bank of PBC.

One more tough example of crypto regulation is India. In the last year, we’ve witnessed a whole “ban — reverse the ban — ban again” saga that led to the bankruptcy of many crypto-related services.

All these countries are apparently trying to find their way to deal with the volatile and “dodgy” nature of cryptocurrency. Some find ways to adopt it to at least some extent, while others prefer a ban. These are certainly not favorable conditions for mass crypto adoption in retail, but let’s give it more time — people need it to get used to game-changers like blockchain and cryptocurrency.

4 Challenges We Have to Overcome to Make Crypto as Massive as We Want

Although we’re quite enthusiastic about crypto here as you may have noticed, we can’t ignore some obvious issues that hinder the adoption of crypto. Here they are:

Volatility

When crypto skeptics are certainly right is when they say the cryptocurrency is too volatile to conveniently set prices in it. Even the most volatile national fiat currencies barely show daily 10–20% fluctuations that are no stranger to Bitcoin or Ethereum.

Stablecoins are a possible solution to this problem. Say, the Tether price is always $1 — something that looks familiar to our eye and easy to measure. Setting prices in stablecoins would make more sense to both sellers and the buyers, especially if we’re talking about a really wide audience.

Security

When new tools emerge in crypto, there are always people right here ready to misuse them. This is what happened with ICOs in 2018, and the same story but on a smaller scale repeated with DeFi smart contracts in 2020. Lack of regulation and absence of mandatory security standards made an increase in hacker and scammer activity possible.

However, the cryptocurrency market is in some way a self-regulating environment: major platforms that value their reputation take additional security measures not to ever be compromised. Thus, crypto exchanges have started to store their users’ funds in cold wallets with multi-signature keys, and have learned their customers to use two-factor authentication and anti-phishing keywords. Shops that accept Bitcoin online are also taking measures to make themselves more secure.

User Friendliness

For many people far from IT and fintech, the very concepts of crypto and blockchain are hard to understand. And when it comes to using crypto services, it gets even more complicated: many of these services do not have an intuitive interface, but, more importantly, also narrow use cases that are interesting only to those who’re already involved in crypto. If you randomly read descriptions of a few crypto services, you’d most likely find that they offer solutions for something related to crypto — not tied to the “real world” at all.

Also, if we’re speaking of mass adoption, the throughput of crypto platforms needs to be drastically improved. While VISA offers 7200 transactions per second, Bitcoin can only respond with 7.

Conclusion

To cut it short — most likely, you won’t be able to shop with crypto at your favorite store in 5 years. Maybe in 10. But maybe you will be, and that won’t be Bitcoin.

Events are moving pretty unpredictably, and maybe there’s a black swan of an unimaginable crypto adoption form that is waiting for us just around the corner. Whatever happens, there’s something we can do ourselves right now — educate our friends on crypto, use good crypto services and report bad ones — and soon, we will find ourselves in a world where cryptocurrency is a full-fledged part of everyday life.

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