I’m quite old fashioned when it comes to money. I love to play with a coin, flicking it between my fingers as I wait for the bus or fidgeting with it in my pocket as I walk to work. But, in a time when the concept of cash is one that can seem a little quaint in the face of plastic swipe cards with pay fast technology and instant bank transfers over the web, using paper to buy goods is beginning to take on something of a novelty of its own.
In many ways the rise of the ecommerce platform to global dominance is the final nail in the proverbial coffin of the cash economy. This year it’s estimated that online retail sales will grow by around 20% on last year’s, and the sector has continued to gain ground even in the wake of the global super downturn, it’s easy to see how cash could be heading for the door.
But the obvious dominance of the ecommerce platform aside, there is a more recent trend that seems to be threatening even the prime position of plastic purchases over the internet. BitCoin and other online currencies have grown considerably in the last few years and there are now more providers offering integrated support for virtual currencies than ever before.
But just what are the benefits of using BitCoin to pay, and why are so many online retailers ‘towing the line’ to provide consumers with the option? Well, as ever with economics, the answer isn’t really a simple one.
There’s no question that BitCoin has its advantages, and it’s not surprising that they seem ostensibly to fit in very nicely with the ecommerce model of selling. The ability of ecommerce companies to grow exponentially, and crucially, globally, has been a defining feature in the rise of online sales systems, and BitCoin is modelled perfectly to break down the barriers of currency exchange in favour of accessible commerce in a similar way to the Euro for example.
For consumers in countries with strict regulations and underdeveloped banking sectors that may not offer the same international accessibility enjoyed across the US and Europe, BitCoin has proved a relatively stable option of payment. What’s more BitCoin has some seriously low transaction charges that have managed to dwarf the levies on many other popular credit and debit card payments.
However it’s not all good news for the BitCoiners. Many retailers have refused to adopt BitCoin because they think consumers find it hard to weigh up the value of goods when they aren’t listed in local currencies, while other businesses have opted to maximise foreign currency payments with their ecommerce providers, rather than spend time and money integrating a BitCoin systemthat may lend itself to custom from businesses in more far-flung economic regions that are not necessarily part of an immediate target market.