Just what can the blockchain do for retail?

Just what can the blockchain do for retail?

AI-powered chatbots, Customer Relationship Management solutions, and simplified payments – these technologies are all currently being leveraged by retailers in the pursuit of competitive advantage. Retailers recognise the advantages of technology in creating a frictionless customer experience and recognise that in a highly cut throat environment any advantage that technology can bring is welcomed… That is until you come to blockchain.

The advantages of distributed ledger technology are not as apparent or glamorous as other technologies, but they are missing the key values that can be added by this nascent solution.

Let’s get one thing straight from the off – blockchain is not bitcoin and bitcoin is not blockchain. True the technology has been borne out of the rise of the revolutionary cryptocurrency, and certainly the transmission of value digitally without the need for centralised systems to negate “double spending” has been successfully proven, and the host of other advantages of this underlying technology are only just now being explored.

In terms of retail, blockchain technology can help to solve a whole host of challenges retailers face within this modern consumer arena. There are many indicators that blockchain may well be the right technology for retail at precisely the right time.

Supply chains and logistics plus blockchain

Tracking packages and shipments becomes a whole lot easier with blockchain. This is why:

  • Every single stage of the transit journey can contain immutable details regarding who shipped what, when and where it was shipped. This information can be updated in real-time, ensuring transparency, feeding into large scale enterprise planning packages seamlessly via middleware. This helps both “just-in-time” stock holding and more traditional supply chains whilst also shedding clarity on shipment efficiencies.
  • Automation via smart contracts (a technology that executes pre-programmed operations when specific criteria have been met), allows a reduction in paperwork and bureaucratic workload. Streamlining process whilst delivering an immutable record of transit, that can then be investigated, acted upon and improved upon.
  • Step by step payment release through significant manufacture and supply milestones, enabling businesses to maximise cash flow and profitability.
  • Absolute integration into CRM, WMS and other proprietorial systems through secure data migration, all cryptographically secured through a distributed network.
  • Via smart monitors, shipping conditions can be constantly monitored (think room temperature and storage measures throughout the journey which can prevent cross-contamination and other health-related issues for perishable goods). Some retailers across the globe are already experimenting with blockchain technology to determine how it can improve the safety of food supply chains.

Authenticity has always been an issue for the retail industry, especially within the luxury goods market.

The benefits for provenance via blockchain

Authenticity has always been an issue for the retail industry, especially within the luxury goods market. With the rise of grey and black market goods around the globe, brands are finding it difficult to maintain exclusivity of ownership, whilst seeing their brands are being devalued and degraded with poor quality replication.

  • However, with blockchain aiding the tracking of goods, right from source to store, businesses can provide their customers with a 100% guarantee regarding the provenance of their products.

From a consumer perspective there are huge upsides too:

  • The rise of demand through millennials to trace the sustainability and ethical credentials of products has given birth to a wealth of certification used for reassurance. However fair trade, sustainably and ethically sourced concerns have not gone away, and current organisations are facing increasing criticisms in not going far enough in delivering their promises.
  • The transparent immutability of the blockchain can offer a reassurance via monitored supply networks that these promises are genuine and provable. A huge advantage in a competitive marketplace, as millennials become more aware of how this technology can feed into their concerns and answer them, producing a demand and expectation that if not met will damage brands and goods that cannot prove their claims.

With customers in the driving seat, managing their online identities through blockchain technology, it allows for a different relationship with brands.

Customer loyalty and security with blockchain

Customer data is a hot topic right now with Facebook’s missteps in using and selling data, breaches and ongoing trust challenges. Blockchain can transform business and customer data relationships.

Customer data storage is always a tricky subject, but distributed networks allow businesses to store data outside of centralised databases (which have inherent single points of vulnerability). Secured by cryptography and self monitoring, these networks offer a realistic alternative to moving and using this data with reassurance.

Creating an identity within the blockchain to enable customers to store their data allows them complete sovereign control over who sees what, when and where. With customers in the driving seat it allows a different relationship.

Other benefits include:

  • Deeper more valuable data can be shared with businesses and brands that have earned the right through providing goods and services that the customer appreciates.
  • Rewards can be given and earned through crypto microtransactions
  • Loyalty programs can become seamless and even shared across retailers – all without the need for joining up complicated systems and infrastructures.
  • With deeper data comes deeper insight into behaviour and mindset, this will lead to improved services, products and relationships with consumers.

Integrating blockchain solutions can fill IT departments with dread, but by using Omnitude’s middleware blockchain ecosystem it needn’t be a painful process. Through the use of API’s, we can plug-and-play the benefits of distributed ledger technology into a retailer’s WMS, CRM and many other types of legacy databases and systems keeping costs, integration times and the pain to a minimum.

The retail advantages of blockchain are huge… get in contact and let’s talk about how Omnitude can help your business, brand and service adapt, survive and thrive.

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