Cryptocurrency is a kind of online money that only exists in transactions between computers. Unlike paper currencies, which are usually issued by governments, cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin are transferred from one holder to another in a fully transparent open-source chain that (in theory) keeps everybody honest. At first, these blockchain-based currencies were the domain of speculators and traders only, but several of them have now matured to the point where people can actually buy things with their digital money. If your business is ready to accept those payments, you can jump into a commanding lead in what promises to be the Next Big Thing in retail, both online and off.
If you run a brick-and-mortar retail store, you almost certainly already have a point-of-sale system at your cash register. Modern POS machines can be upgraded with a Bitcoin wallet program that’s just as fast and easy as a credit or debit card purchase. Install Coinbase or CoinKite in your terminal, and when a customer offers Bitcoin, you just have to type in the price and send the data. That generates a QR code the customer can scan to complete the transaction. Coinbase, which charges a percentage of every transaction, even lets you print a receipt.
Online or in-person businesses ranging from auction websites to kids’ lemonade stands don’t even need a POS machine. Just downloading a cryptocurrency app to your smartphone or tablet does the trick. Usually, transfers between parties require scanning a QR code, inputting a code string, or just bumping phones together. Some of the most popular wallet apps are:
- Coinbase and CoinKite: These work with existing POS machines and generate paper trails for customers. They also work online.
- MyEtherWallet: This less-traditional online wallet app creates your wallet without an account, generates downloadable records, and works with both Windows and Mac OS.
- Sia Coin Wallet: Sia is Windows’ official Bitcoin app, and it’s built for very secure transactions, such as financial and investment operations.
Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies may be the wave of the future for retail. With the right apps, you can star accepting them before most of your competition even knows that the possibility exists.