To be sure, digital currency markets have had their ups and downs. A recent study by Gallup shows that only 2 percent of investors are currently purchasing Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, but one in four is intrigued. With major banks betting on the space, however, that math may be about to change.
Whether or not your company accepts cryptocurrency as a payment method, it would do well to pay attention to the surprising ways the business world is already using digital currency:
1. Investing in customer loyalty.
Loyalty programs have long struggled to find the right incentive structure. According to the 2017 Colloquy Loyalty Census, more than half of loyalty memberships in the U.S. are inactive. The report says approximately 30 percent of surveyed U.S. and Canadian consumers have left loyalty programs without ever redeeming a point or a mile.
Could cryptocurrencies reignite customer loyalty? Cryptocurrency gives customers want they want — cash — without the security and logistics challenges of doling out cash.
In Zurich, for example, Caffe Lattesso encourages purchasers to redeem codes found on its bottles for loyalty rewards in the form of digital coins, which can be exchanged within a few months for other digital tokens or traditional currency. EZ Rent-A-Car is following suit with a program that allows customers to exchange their loyalty points for digital coins.
Related: Here’s How to Earn and Keep the Loyalty of Your Customers
2. Banking on accessory technologies.
Rather than re-invigorate their existing customer base, other entrepreneurs could look at building a new one around the cryptocurrency market. Investors may start focusing less on initial coin offerings and more on building the technological ecosystem around cryptocurrencies.
Demand is growing quickly for digital currency point-of-sale systems, for example. Although most of the demand is currently in South Korea, at least one company plans to distribute some 100,000 point-of-sale machines by 2021. Vendors that accept cryptocurrencies will also need accounting and reporting software to support the payment method.
Related: 4 Ways to Leverage the Fast Growth of Cryptocurrencies for Success
3. Making change with ease.
But cryptocurrencies are good for more than spending money; they’re also great for giving back. Eric Tippetts, co-founder of NASGO pointed out at the United Nations’ Media for Social Change Summit, cryptocurrency’s digital nature makes set-it-and-forget-it philanthropy possible.
“Instead of voicing a commitment to philanthropy, the blockchain makes it possible to program giving into the operation itself,” Tippetts explained in a Cheddar interview. NASGO’s financial systems, he noted, direct every seventeenth revenue cycle into an account for humanitarian contributions.
Creatives, too, are using cryptocurrency to spread their message.
In the Cheddar interview, Tippetts and Jaafar Jackson, son of Jermaine Jackson and nephew of Michael Jackson, discussed plans to tokenize upcoming musical releases as a way to raise awareness, gather contributions and donate part of their earnings to humanitarian causes. Ashton Kutcher, in fact, recently donated $4 million in XRP tokens, a digital currency introduced by fintech startup Ripple, to the Ellen DeGeneres Wildlife Fund during his appearance on DeGeneres’s show.
Far from the fad its detractors thought it would be, digital currency is become a staple of the business world sooner than anyone expected. If it can soup up tired loyalty programs, open new opportunities in software and streamline charitable giving, then what’s next? Entrepreneurs can’t buy an answer to that question — but they can build it.