Six Promising Use Cases for Blockchain in Retail

Several blockchain initiatives are already underway that could solve some of the problems plaguing the retail industry.

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While much of the buzz around blockchain remains in the pilot stage, most experts agree widespread adoption of blockchain could only be 3-5 years away. 

Vox has identified six promising use cases for how blockchain could help solve some of the problems plaguing the retail industry that technologists, investors and analysts are excited about today. 

1)  Inventory management— According to a recent study by IHL Group, a research and advisory firm, stockouts cost retailers nearly $1 trillion per year globally. With better inventory visibility and more transparency throughout the supply chain, suppliers and retailers could track the progress of shipments and know when products need to be replenished. Blockchain could help by increasing accountability and ensuring that the data all parties are receiving is accurate and up to date.

2)   Product safety—Walmart is leading the way in this area with its Food Traceability Initiative in partnership with IBM, but it’s safe to assume other retailers that have been hit by product safety issues in the past may want to consider a similar process to restore customer trust and avoid liability in the future.

3)   Anti-counterfeiting— For something like a designer handbag, blockchain could help assure customers of its authenticity — an ongoing challenge in the luxury resale market, which currently relies largely on the subjective expertise of authentication specialists.

4)   Ethical supply chains— Blockchain, some experts argue, could back up brands’ claims about ethical supply chains and sustainability, offering a verified record of where a product came from and whose hands it passed through to get to the consumer.

5)   Managing customer data— As a decentralized system, blockchain could provide a means for retailers to use their customers’ data to tailor things like product recommendations while not actually storing the data on their servers, which has proven to be a liability for many retailers in the wake of widespread hacks.

6)   Payments—While the lack of standardization in blockchain will pose a challenge, the technology presents an interesting option for companies that want to bypass credit cards in payment processing. 

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