Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are currently a hot topic of conversation, but why aren’t more retailers accepting them? Two Rizing experts recently joined The Future of Now Technology Revolution podcast that identified six obstacles currently inhibiting the use of cryptocurrency to purchase products including having to convert crypto to cash, getting refunds in cash, the volatile value of cryptocurrencies, lack of a standardized payment processing infrastructure, and the current environmental impact of Bitcoin mining.
All things that, according to a recent article by the Money Under 30 website, you can currently buy with Bitcoin.
While a few adventurous retailers are dipping their toes into the cryptocurrency waters, most are not.
What’s the holdup? Why are consumers not yet able to go “full crypto?”
Both Darren Hunter, Vice President and Brian Cederborg, Senior Vice President at Rizing Consumer Industries recently joined Prabhudev Konana, Dean of Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland and Jimmy Kilpatrick, Sr. Product Manager – Tech at Amazon on a podcast to discuss the current state of Bitcoin in the retail market.
Listen to the full episode of Technology Revolution, The Future of Now episode entitled The Future of Cryptocurrency in Retail: Pay Now, Pay How?
Six reasons you can’t pay in crypto (yet)
Discussion on the podcast found (at least) five things keeping consumers from using cryptocurrencies.
1. Really, you’re still paying in cash
“What if I go to my favorite department store retailer and want to pay in Bitcoin?” says Rizing’s Brian Cederborg. “The simple answer is I don’t. The first step is change it to cash because most retailers don’t accept crypto directly.”
Rizing’s Darren Hunter agrees. “Back in the old days we used to carry this big George Costanza wallet,” Hunter says. “Now you need a digital wallet that tracks how much money you have and is able to communicate that to the retailer. It’s similar to the Apple Pay process that people are familiar with.”
2. Returns are also still in cash
If the crypto purchase is actually made in cash, what happens if the customer wants to return the item?
“The medium is cash,” says Cederborg. “So what are you going to get your refund in? Cash or credit or debit.”
“If I buy a necktie that my fiancé tells me is really ugly and I have to take it back,” says Amazon’s Jimmy Smith, “I’m going to get dollars back whether I paid in Bitcoin or not because my transaction was denominated in dollars. In the future, I would get Bitcoin back and I would get the same number of Bitcoin back that I paid for it.”
3. Volatile values
Part of the difficulty of the return process is the third reason consumers aren’t yet able to go full crypto – by the time the return is processed, the value of the currency has probably changed.
“The challenge is I paid one Bitcoin and then five days later the price of Bitcoin exploded,” Smith says. “I want to get that one Bitcoin back and that’s not going to happen. Macy’s is not going to be a currency exchange market mediated by bad neckties.”
4. Lack of a payment processing infrastructure
Brian Cederborg points out the underlying reason there are currently so many different processes and apps for paying with cryptocurrency.
“If I bring my ice cream to the point of sale and pay with my credit card,” says Cederborg, “behind that transaction is a (standardized) payment processing framework that makes the process frictionless. That kind of framework doesn’t exist for crypto whatsoever.”
5. Lack of oversight
Cryptocurrencies currently operate outside the oversight of any one government or group. While that appeals to many, Darren Hunter feels any widely-adopted currency needs some sort of governmental regulation.
“Whether that’s a single government or groups of government, I think people are going to be reluctant to use crypto because it’s kind of a Wild West, ” says Hunter. “If I have a problem, I want to go to one place to complain about it and that’s not the case here.”
6. Environmental impact
The environmental impact of mining Bitcoin has been a hotly debated topic for several years, yet a recent CNBC article states:
“Today, bitcoin draws roughly 70 terawatt hours of energy per year, or 0.33% of the world’s total electricity production. That is almost half of what it was in May and is roughly equivalent to the annual energy draw of countries like Bangladesh and Chile.”
Fellow podcast panelist Prabhudev Konana extrapolated the current environmental costs out to a retail market based fully on cryptocurrencies:
“Currently that amount of power is consumed by 300,000 to 400,000 transactions per day in a Bitcoin network,” says Konana. “But there are close to 45 to 50 billion credit card transactions a year globally. Imagine if we had to move everything into digital currency and mining it. We’re talking about burning the earth – the end of humanity as we know it.”
Yet, retailers are taking interest
These six adoption issues aside, retailers are at least curious about cryptocurrencies.
“We have customers that are asking about crypto – about every other week,” says Brian Cederborg.
Bob Seger, Rush, and Dr. Strangelove?
For more panel discussion on cryptocurrencies (including references to Bob Seger, Rush, and Dr. Strangelove,) view the full podcast on the Voice of America website.