We're exploring the factors influencing the adoption of cryptocurrency by retailers and whether it is likely to become a widely accepted payment method in the future.
Cryptocurrency (a form of digital or virtual currency) has been a subject of intense debate, speculation and scrutiny since the inception of Bitcoin in 2009.
Once crypto established some semblance of stability, there were a handful of retailers that contemplated the potential integration of cryptocurrencies into mainstream online retail transactions.
A handful of progressive companies have embraced this technology, allowing crypto-customers to make purchases using popular cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum.
However, despite the fact that there are over 15,174 businesses worldwide that accept bitcoin, there are no high street shops in the UK that accept crypto as a form of payment.
So why have cryptocurrency payments failed to earn the trust of high-street retailers?
Are UK retailers accepting cryptocurrency?
As we said before, there are over 15,000 businesses worldwide that accept bitcoin as a form of payment. But, when it comes to the UK, the acceptance of cryptocurrency in the retail industry is virtually none-existent.
Many mainstream retailers still see it as too much of a risk to themselves and their consumers. Infact, not one UK high-street shop accepts crypto as a form of payment.
There are even global banks that still refuse to entertain the notion of cryptocurrency as a legitimate method of payment, or flag crypto payments as fraudulent.
However, their ecommerce stores are more receptive, and there are methods dedicated to technically purchase items from retailers.
For example, Etsy doesn't have its own platform for accepting Bitcoin as payment, but independent merchants using Etsy are permitted to offer it as a payment method option during checkout.
Shopify allows online sellers to accept crypto payments in the United Kingdom.
One of the UK's biggest cosmetics company Lush, accepts BTC payments which in turn increases the number of available payment methods worldwide.
Interestingly, a study by CoinLedger found that retail and ecommerce lead the way in crypto adoption, with the industries coming top in the rankings of cryptocurrency acceptance (with Food & Dining and Luxury Retail placing second and third respectively).
It's important to note that it's predominantly US retailers and ecommerce stores that accept cryptocurrency because US regulations are in place, unlike UK regulations which have yet to enforce formal legislation for crypto activities.
Earlier this year, the UK government confirmed plans to regulate the cryptocurrency industry by 2024.
Why retailers should consider cryptocurrency adoption
Despite the challenges and lack of regulation, once cryptocurrency is fully regulated, there are several factors that could drive the widespread adoption of cryptocurrencies in online retail transactions:
Growing Consumer Interest As more individuals become familiar with and invest in cryptocurrencies, there may be an increasing demand for retailers to accept these digital assets as a valid form of payment.
Lower Transaction Costs Cryptocurrency transactions can potentially reduce fees associated with traditional payment methods, such as credit cards. Retailers, especially those with thin profit margins, may find the prospect of lower transaction costs appealing.
Global Transactions Cryptocurrencies have the potential to simplify and expedite cross-border transactions. Retailers engaged in international trade may find cryptocurrencies advantageous for reducing currency conversion costs and transaction times.
Innovation and Competition The dynamic nature of the retail sector encourages innovation and competition. Retailers looking to gain a competitive edge may be more willing to experiment with emerging technologies, including cryptocurrencies, to attract a tech-savvy customer base.
Why cryptocurrency payments are not widely-accepted
Below are some of the challenges that are behind the absence of cryptocurrencies in the across the retail industry, not just in the UK, but worldwide:
Volatility The value of cryptocurrencies is notoriously volatile. Retailers, particularly those operating on thin profit margins, are hesitant to accept a form of payment that can experience significant fluctuations in value within short time frames. This volatility exposes businesses to financial risks, making them wary of incorporating cryptocurrencies into their payment options.
Regulatory Uncertainty The lack of clear and consistent regulations surrounding cryptocurrencies is a major barrier to adoption. Retailers must navigate a complex legal landscape, with different jurisdictions imposing varying rules and restrictions. This uncertainty can lead businesses to opt for more established and regulated payment methods. As we said before, the UK is yet to even establish formal regulations, but we can expect them in 2024.
Infrastructure Challenges Integrating cryptocurrency payment systems requires significant technological infrastructure upgrades. Many retailers may find it costly and complex to implement the necessary systems for processing cryptocurrency transactions securely. The need for additional security measures to protect against fraud and hacking adds another layer of complexity.
Consumer Awareness and Trust The general public's understanding of cryptocurrencies is still evolving, and many consumers remain unfamiliar with the intricacies of digital currencies. Building trust in a new payment method is a gradual process, and retailers may be hesitant to invest in educating their customer base about the benefits and risks of using cryptocurrencies.
While the adoption of cryptocurrencies across UK retail faces significant challenges and awaits official regulation, the landscape is continuing to evolve. As the industry matures, it's increasingly feasible that retailers may come to accept digital currencies, especially if solutions to issues like volatility, regulatory uncertainty, and infrastructure challenges are developed.
Consumer demand, lower transaction costs, and the global nature of ecommerce may act as catalysts for change.
However, the path to widespread acceptance will require collaboration between industry stakeholders, regulatory bodies, and technology providers to address existing barriers and build a more viable environment for the integration of cryptocurrencies into the mainstream retail experience.
Time will tell whether cryptocurrencies will become a staple in the world of retail transactions or remain a niche and experimental payment method, or simply, an investment venture.