PayPal has recently announced that it would start accepting bitcoin payments, sending the value of the cryptocurrency soaring. However, not everyone is happy at the news, and PayPal’s announcement drew mixed responses from the fintech community.
Vadim Grigoryan is a partner and co-founder at Lunu, a provider of payment systems and solutions that allow stablecoins to be used in everyday life. The company has introduced a mobile terminal and processing service that allows customers to spend cryptocurrency as local currency at the point of sale in retail transactions without expensive exchange commissions.
Here Vadim discusses the benefits of digital cryptocurrencies to the economy, and why PayPal’s news isn’t so great after all.
The recent news surrounding PayPal entering the crypto ecosystem spread great enthusiasm across blockchain communities. The payments giant announced its plan to acquire crypto companies to expand its services, opening the door to central bank digital currencies (CBDC). While this is good news for the crypto-community, as it raises awareness around crypto-related topics, customers should be aware of PayPal’s terms and conditions.
The company will not allow users to import cryptos already held and will disable interactions with third-party wallets already owned by customers. Cryptos can neither be imported nor exported. Also, users can only buy from and sell to PayPal, each time following PayPal’s Ts&Cs and potentially leading to exchange rate losses. Last but not least, in the absence of private keys, users won’t even be able to access their cryptos.
So, although this news does have the benefit of pushing Bitcoin into the public light and raising awareness around crypto, PayPal is certainly not democratising cryptocurrencies (as the public tends to think). In this case, we would say bitcoins are being offered to PayPal users as an asset, rather than a currency.
The key benefits of digital and cryptocurrencies for the economy
The main benefit deriving from the decentralised nature of blockchain is the security surrounding data. This means that instead of storing data in a single location, the technology distributes small chunks of data to a network of computers, minimising the risk of data loss. Moreover, cryptocurrencies are not subject to political risks such as inflation. This is why they are gaining momentum in countries like Argentina, where they offer real protection against high inflation rates. Cryptocurrencies are also borderless – the users are not bound by national frontiers.
There are many benefits to cryptos and we could continue the list for quite a while, as different user groups generally have their own motivations. While some users want protection against high inflation, others strive to identify themselves as part of a new generation, with new values focused on transparency, openness, and fairness.
For companies, there is also a technological advantage. Crypto payments are not just faster and more secure, they are also cheaper as third-party providers are not involved, asking for potentially high fees and/or commissions. By cutting out sometimes expensive middlemen and receiving payments faster, companies will be able to boost their growth and perform better in the long run.
How the retail industry can benefit from these new currencies
We’ve already highlighted the technological benefits of cryptos for companies, but there is numerous additional benefit for retailers – especially in these times of lockdowns and looming economic recession. With the number of crypto users reaching the symbolic threshold of 101 million worldwide in 2020, a relatively big customer segment has been created. It opens retailers up to new, younger, more affluent audiences that are constantly growing in numbers. Companies who can bridge the gap between cryptos and their products and services will therefore be able to access a whole new customer base. But despite this, too few businesses accept crypto as a means of payment.
Expanding the variety of payment methods can also have a positive impact on retailers’ customer service. This consequently adds more value to the brand, positioning it as innovative and making it more attractive to a wide range of stakeholders.
Why luxury brands will be early adopters
Luxury brands in Europe will be the first ones to be drawn to cryptos as they will recognise that it is more than a currency – it also reflects the values of a new generation. Cryptocurrencies in Europe are associated with fairness, transparency, and openness, which are values luxury brands seek to be associated with as they reach out to international and younger generations.
As luxury brands often rely on their heritage, introducing cryptocurrencies can help them get a competitive edge. The luxury sector is also already heavily focused on endorsing high-profile influencers to make the products more desired by their audiences. As a consequence, even the hardware assisting digital payments should meet the highest standards of quality mixed with a sleek design as adopting the most innovative payment methods can help retailers simply reach more affluent audiences, at no additional cost.
Also, as an example, Courbet recently became the first jewellers brand in Europe to offer its customers the opportunity to pay for their purchases using cryptocurrencies. As an advocate for the use of laboratory conceived diamonds and recycled gold, Courbet saw a reflection of its values in this innovative method of payment.