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Guide | September 07, 2021

The Pros and Cons of Accepting Cryptocurrency Payments for eCommerce

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, mercifully far from the reach of Elon Musk’s Tweets, you’ll know a thing or two about cryptocurrencies.


The likes of Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Dogecoin have all entered our global lexicon and the digital currencies which were at one point most associated with shady, anonymous transactions have gone mainstream. Bitcoin alone accounts for some $6 billion in daily transactions, and while cryptocurrencies are perceived by some as a financial asset rather than currency, more and more companies are accepting it as a form of payment.


Today, you can book a holiday on Expedia using cryptocurrency, buy a Starbucks coffee at the airport, use it to pay for your stay in a Pavilion Hotels & Resorts, and if you’ve traveled to Australia, you can even buy a Coca Cola from a vending machine.


So do you need to start accepting cryptocurrency payments on your eCommerce store to avoid being left behind? It’s not a simple question to answer, in no small part thanks to the deluge of biased information about cryptocurrency pumped out online on a daily basis. Nevertheless, a sober look at the pros and cons should help decide if you should follow Elon to the moon, or keep your feet firmly planted on planet Earth.


Pro - Diversification


This positive aspect is pretty intuitive. Increasing the number of payment options available on your eCommerce store will only increase the number of customers who are able to purchase products from you. Accepting cryptocurrency won’t just attract the crypto evangelists and those adverse to giving their details to a credit card company though, you’ll also be opening up your store to the world’s sizable unbanked population.


Some 69% of the population of Vietnam is unbanked, while the figure is 60% for Nigeria, according to Statista. That adds up to more than 186 million people. Cryptocurrency adoption is at its highest in Vietnam and Nigeria by some measures, showing the power it has to bring digital payments to new, untapped markets, even if retail investors make up the bulk of those using cryptocurrencies. Accepting cryptocurrency payments will allow you to tap into those markets and as there are thought to be 1.7 billion unbanked people globally, they are sizable markets.


Con - Lack of Universality

 

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Credit cards are a far more popular payment method than cryptocurrencies.

Despite the prodigious growth in the adoption of cryptocurrencies and the abovementioned opportunities for diversification, it has to be said that they are far from ubiquitous. While the barrier to entry is dropping, it still requires a greater degree of tech-savviness to acquire cryptocurrencies and buy products with them than it does to use a credit or debit card. 

Then there’s the fact that there are umpteen cryptocurrencies out there for customers and merchants to choose from, indeed thousands of new coins hit the market in the first half of this year. You could invest a lot of time and money into accepting payments for one particular coin and then find its popularity has crashed in favor of the next big thing and nobody wants to use it anymore. Remember, there’s only one dollar. Well alright more than one, but you get the point.


Pro - Lower Transaction Fees


Whereas banks and credit card companies tend to charge high transaction fees averaging 1.3-3.5% (which doesn’t include the payment processor’s fee), cryptocurrency transactions often don’t have fees, and if they do, they can be as low as 1%. On a large scale, a small percentage point change like that could have a huge impact on your bottom line. If you were able to convert enough of your traditional credit card sales into cryptocurrency sales, the savings would be tremendous, and you could pass these savings onto your customers in the form of discounts, further driving sales.


However, on a note of caution, while there are savings to be had at the point of purchase, without doing some due diligence you could get stung when it comes time to convert your Bitcoin into fiat currency. With rates generally high and a transaction fee often involved, you could wipe out all your savings from the transaction fees when it comes to moving your crypto to fiat, so as Walter White would say, tread lightly.


Con - Volatility


Even if the last time you looked up the dollar-euro exchange rate was a couple of months ago, you could probably make a pretty stab at guessing what it is today. Not so with crypto. The price of a Bitcoin halved from $60,000 in April to $30,000 just two months later this year. With such huge fluctuations in value a regular occurrence (indeed Bitcoin is more stable than a lot of other coins) there is a real possibility of eCommerce merchants being hit in the pocket if they’re not careful.


Volatility makes pricing products difficult and it can make dealing with returns of items bought with crypto even tricker, which is why many stores that do accept cryptocurrencies list prices in US dollars and match the dollar price for returns. Which seems so cumbersome it’s worth asking, “is it worth it if I’m selling returnable goods?”

 

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The value of cryptocurrencies can fluctuate dramatically.

 

Pro - Customer Loyalty


Few concepts, currencies, or financial instruments have such a loyal following online as cryptocurrencies. Derivatives and stock options don’t tend to get millions of young men (and it is mostly young men) excited enough to devour ungodly numbers of white papers, blog posts, and YouTube videos, but cryptocurrency has that power. 


While it must be said the rabid enthusiasm is largely to do with the perception that crypto is a path to rapid monetary gain, that doesn’t mean eCommerce stores can’t harness that loyalty. Accepting crypto payments shows these communities that your brand is listening to them, and they will reward that with loyalty, especially those true believers who want cryptocurrencies to enjoy mass adoption. Enthusiasts still celebrate the first commercial Bitcoin transaction, when a man in Florida bought two pizzas for 10,000 Bitcoins on May 22, 2010. Those 10,000 coins, by the way, are worth almost half a billion dollars today.

 

Con - Looming Regulation


Sadly for all those enthusiasts though, there is a growing fear that cryptocurrencies (at least decentralized coins) have already had their day in the sun. Governments around the world are cracking down on cryptocurrencies for various reasons, including their environmental impact due to the vast amount of computing power (and therefore electricity) needed to keep the networks running, and the lack of state oversights over decentralized currencies. The Chinese government banned cryptocurrency transactions in May and many provinces have also banned cryptocurrency mining, the process of solving mathematical equations using computing power to create new units of the currency.


Several governments are in the process of developing their own virtual currencies, including China, backed by central banks in a bid to supersede the cryptocurrencies beyond the controls of financial regulators. 


What does all that mean for an eCommerce store willing to accept cryptocurrencies? To be blunt, it could mean all your efforts to get your site crypto-ready are reduced to ash at the stroke of a pen. While few governments have cracked down on crypto as intensely as China has, the omens aren’t great.


To Crypto or not to Crypto?


Ultimately, whether you start accepting cryptocurrency on your eCommerce site or not will come down to one factor: your customers. If you’re B2C and customers are clamouring for the chance to pay you in Bitcoin, it’s worth looking at. If you’re B2B, again your customers’ needs come into play, as does the flexibility of your contract process.


Several of SmartOSC’s platform partners offer customizable applications to allow you to accept cryptocurrency payments, check them out here.

 

Speak to an eCommerce expert here to find out how SmartOSC can help your business grow.

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