The ascent of Bitcoin (BTC) into the financial mainstream has moved society ever closer to an exclusively digital, universally accepted form of payment. Based on revolutionary blockchain technology, BTC provides users a fast, secure and economical means of making purchases or transferring funds. As the technology of BTC gains acceptance among consumers and retailers alike, many businesses are poised to adopt digital money as a preferred mode of exchange.
Cryptocurrency experts are enthusiastic about the potential of blockchain technology. The applications to individual, business and governmental functions may someday define everything from voting to the capital markets.
However, the initial purpose of the blockchain, as well as BTC, is for use as a monetary system. This utilisation has many of the world's largest companies excited about the possibility of honoring BTC in return for goods or services rendered. In fact, the following corporations are already accepting BTC as a form of payment:
Expedia.com: Travel and leisure
Microsoft: Technology solutions
Overstock.com: Discount retailer
Subway: Fast-casual restaurants
While most entities that champion BTC exist in the online space, many traditional businesses are taking notice. Entertainment outlets, restaurants and casinos are beginning to view BTC as an integral part of day-to-day operations.
The Ascension Of Bitcoin (BTC)
Dating to its inception in 2009, BTC has undergone periods of intense skepticism and euphoric optimism. In the early days, the cryptocurrency's popularity was severely limited by consumer paranoia regarding the feasibility of an unconventional form of currency. Later on, the utility of BTC and blockchain technology gained the support of many in the financial community.
Featuring no physical presence, central banking authority endorsement, or asset backing of any kind, BTC appeared to be short lived. Concerns surrounding basic functionality, as well as safety, undermined its popularity among both consumers and merchants. As the world became more comfortable with rapidly evolving technologies, attitudes toward BTC and cryptocurrencies underwent a dramatic transformation.
From 2013 through 2017, BTC valuations grew exponentially. From January 2013 to December 2017, the price commanded by one BTC increased from £11 to over £12,000. In December 2017, BTC eclipsed £14,000—almost 15 times the value of one ounce of gold. The monumental rally served to not only legitimise BTC as part of the contemporary financial landscape, but fortified cryptocurrencies as a brand-new asset class.
The Growth Of Bitcoin In Retail
The popularity of BTC continues to grow among consumers, merchants and investors alike. While it is difficult to quantify the actual number of individuals that use BTC and other cryptocurrencies, academics have formally addressed the question. A 2016 study conducted at the University of Cambridge estimated the number of active cryptocurrency wallet users to be between 2.9 million and 5.8 million globally.
The regions where BTC usage is the most prevalent are the European Union (EU), U.S., U.K, Canada, Australia and South Korea. In addition, acceptance of BTC among retailers is growing rapidly in many areas around the globe. The following are several examples of this trend in payment processing:
South Korea: The 620 store Gangnam Underground Shopping Center began accepting BTC universally in 2017.
Hong Kong: In late 2017, accounting giant Price Waterhouse Cooper (PWC) began accepting payments for advisory services in its Hong Kong branch.
Ukraine: Shipping company Varamar Ltd. implemented a BTC payment system in 2017 to avoid the hassle of accepting funds denominated in assorted international currencies.
United States: Real estate owners in Miami, Florida have begun listing properties for sale in BTC.
Retailers Scheduled To Accept Bitcoin By 2019
With robust growth in value and growing global acceptance, BTC is a hot commodity. In order to capitalise upon the media coverage and public interest, countless retailers are in the process of integrating BTC into their business models.
Although many household names are keeping their unique plans under wraps, there are several industrial heavyweights expected to adopt BTC payments in the years to come. Here are several of the leading global retailers projected to have BTC payment systems online by 2019:
Of course, only time will tell how deeply BTC will penetrate global commerce. Lofty valuations have made it an international buzzword, but there are various challenges to sustaining long-term viability.
Perhaps the largest threat to the growth of cryptocurrencies is the future of industry regulation. Many countries have already restricted BTC use, including China, Sweden, Russia and India. In the event that aggressive regulation becomes prevalent around the globe, retailers from all industries will be forced to rethink their strategy as it pertains to BTC.
Russell Shor (MSTA, CFTe, MFTA) is a Senior Market Specialist at FXCM. He joined the firm in October 2017 and has an Honours Degree in Economics from the University of South Africa and holds the coveted Certified Financial Technician and Master of Financial Technical Analysis qualifications from the International Federation…