Expert Insight

Cryptocurrencies won’t be a niche for long

Cryptocurrencies have traditionally been viewed as erratic investment vehicles, but attitudes are changing in the Asia-Pacific region.

There has been a gradual rise in cryptocurrency acceptance at APAC merchant locations, with companies being won over by benefits such as lower transaction fees, no chargebacks, and cheaper payment acceptance from foreign tourists, says GlobalData.

Big hitters such as Bic Camera and Yamada Denki in Japan and Goto Mall in South Korea are now onboard, which is likely to push many more peers to look at this area.

Earlier this year, cryptocurrency exchange Bithumb partnered with Korea Pay Services to enable 6,000 retail outlets across South Korea to accept cryptocurrency payments. And in April 2017, another crypto exchange, Coincheck, teamed with Recruit Lifestyle to roll-out its Bitcoin-enabled PoS app AirREGI across 260,000 merchant stores in Japan.

In other parts of the world, progress has been slow, however. In the USA, for instance, Overstock has been leading the way, but elsewhere it’s mostly small ventures like Pokee that are beating the crypto drum.

The Greenwich Village, New York restaurant recently announced that it was adding Ethereum, OmiseGo and IOSToken to its payments mix, alongside cash, cheques and cards. “A lot more businesses will begin to accept cryptocurrencies as the tech becomes more accessible,” says Founder, Sa Wang.

Pokee looked at several studies released by the likes of Blockchain Business Council and Bloomberg. These showed that the majority of users are between the ages of 18 and 34, tech-savvy and excited to frequent businesses that support their interest in cryptocurrencies.

“We think coins like ETH and IOST are a great way to engage with younger generations, and that the cryptocurrency ecosystem is a loyal and passionate market that isn’t being catered to. We are more than willing to fill that niche and believe it won’t be a niche for long,” says Wang.

“Initially, we expect it to be fairly niche, but if you look at the economic data from Southeast Asia, you will see a massive disparity in phone purchases between the East and the West,” she adds.

“The gap is beginning to close, however, and we’ve already seen a drastic shift in NYC as many businesses have stopped accepting cash in recent years. A rise in cellular payments is the logical progression and as the West begins to catch up with the East in this metric, we expect crypto and apps to play a large role in securing those cellular payments.”

Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ethereum et al are often viewed with suspicion and disdain, but Ma believes that almost every new technology goes through a similar cycle of scepticism before education begins to permeate through the public consciousness.

“Based on our research and the impressive companies pouring money into blockchain R&D, it seems extremely likely that cryptocurrencies are going to be a crucial technology in the coming years. The benefits of cryptocurrencies are well-documented and it’s unfortunate that critics tend to confuse Bitcoin with the blossoming field of blockchain technology,” she says.

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