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Beyond Bitcoin: Blockchain Continues to Gain a Foothold in Retail/CPG



INFLUENCER: Isobar Commerce's Shawn Mishra examines how blockchain technology is beginning to disrupt and shape the commerce value chain

Beyond Bitcoin: Blockchain Continues to Gain a Foothold in Retail/CPG

At almost every technology and innovation conference I have been to in the last 3-4 years, there is one topic that is simply impossible to escape – blockchain. Looking back, 2017 will likely be remembered as the year that blockchain hype peaked. But a year later, as the fog lifts, we are seeing businesses and consortiums large and small beginning to adopt blockchain – beyond bitcoins and cryptocurrencies – to solve complex business challenges. 

The financial services industry rich with intermediaries and the need for accuracy and authentication was the earliest adopter of blockchain technology. However, we are now seeing blockchain being adopted across multiple industries, including transport, logistics, education, music and entertainment, media and marketing, real estate, healthcare, energy, and government; and the list continues to grow. According to Gartner, the business value-add of blockchain will grow to slightly more than $176 billion by 2025, and then it will exceed $3.1 trillion by 2030.

Focusing on the retail/CPG sector, it’s fundamentally about value transfer and its value-chain is full of intermediaries to enable that, so we are witnessing tremendous momentum when it comes to the adoption of blockchain to speed-up the processes and make them more transparent.

A great example of this is Farm-to-Aisle (or Factory-to-Aisle) product tracking through the Food Trust platform jointly built by Walmart, Nestle and IBM, which uses blockchain technology to create visibility and accountability in the food supply chain. It connects growers, processors, distributors, and retailers through a permissioned, permanent and shared record of food system data.

Another example is, the online clothing retailer. Using blockchain, they provide an authentic and transparent breakdown of how much it costs to manufacture and sell their clothes, in order to provide pricing transparency to their customers. There are many other examples of brands using blockchain in the retail/CPG space, including Unilever’s initiative to maintain transparency on the supply chain, so both the company and the consumer know the origins of their tea. 

Cotton leaders Calcot, Cargill, ECOM Agroindustrial Corporation Ltd., EWR, Inc., Louis Dreyfus Company, Olam International, Parkdale Mills, Plains Cotton Cooperative Association and Staple Cotton Cooperative Association collaborated with US commodities trading and agribusiness software provider The Seam to build a global trading ecosystem. In a Forbes article in January 2017, Mark Pryor, Chairman and CEO of The Seam, said the technology will be transformational for the cotton industry because of the numerous organisations, processes, systems and transactions involved, from field to fabric.

It’s no secret that, within the retail/CPG sector, digital commerce, known as the ‘canary in the coalmine’, has always been the earliest adopter of emerging technologies – ahead of such technologies being adopted by the rest of the organisation. And blockchain is proving to be no different. I believe that blockchain will be one of two biggest disruptors (Personalisation being the other one) of commerce over the next five years. And we are seeing numerous instances where blockchain is beginning to disrupt the commerce value chain as we know it today. 

As bitcoins and cryptocurrencies begin to be adopted widely, it’s no news to anyone that traditional payment methods and operators face significant disruption. OpenBazaar, an open-source, peer-to-peer network, is developing decentralised blockchain utilities to connect buyers and sellers, without an intermediary and the associated charges, and with no restrictions on goods sold. First Data-owned, Gyft, has also partnered with blockchain infrastructure provider Chain to run a program called Gyft Block for thousands of smaller merchants to sell, ship, and redeem gift cards. 

With the release of ‘Travis’ mainnet, CyberMiles now offers a blockchain platform for e-retailers that is claimed to be 20,000 times faster than Ethereum, has a smart contract template (used for invoices, receipts, etc.) for ease of development, and, the best part, is free of charge for standard use.. 

These are just a handful of examples of how blockchain technology is beginning to disrupt and shape the commerce value chain. Blockchain today reminds me of 1995 when we were just beginning to see the impact of the Web on our lives. Since then, it has transformed the world we live in and will continue to do so. Will blockchain deliver on its promise to be just as disruptive? We’ll find out over the next few years.

Shawn Mishra is senior vice-president, global managing partner at Isobar Commerce

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Dentsu Creative UK, Mon, 29 Oct 2018 15:54:20 GMT