From community development and personalized marketing to fraud prevention, supply chain management, and payment processing, retailers and brands are continuing to find new and innovative ways to leverage blockchain technology in 2022.
While rising inflation and looming recession fears are hitting retailers hard, the potential that blockchain technology brings to nearly all aspects of retail and brand marketing points to incredible opportunity for multi-location companies that are ready to pounce.
Luxury brands like LVMH, Prada, and Cartier have been early adopters of this technology, using the blockchain to clamp down on counterfeit goods. Automakers like Mercedes-Benz are following close behind. But for multi-location brands, the blockchain represents an entirely different path toward reliability, sustainability, and marketing personalization. These brands are working to create the types of positive customer experiences that generate brand loyalty without relying on discounts or promotions.
Here’s how five major brands, retailers, and restaurant chains are utilizing blockchain technology to streamline operations and cultivate more positive customer interactions in 2022.
Walmart’s interest in the blockchain centers around supply chain management. The global retail giant is using IBM’s Hyperledger Fabric platform to bring transparency to the supply chain and reduce instances of foodborne illness. Together with IMB, Walmart has developed a traceability system for its supermarket food supply, so the provenance of food products on store shelves can be traced in mere seconds. Certificates of authenticity for certain foods, like meat products, are uploaded to the blockchain, making it easier to identify where those products are located if an outbreak occurs and trace back all ingredients to the original farms where they were produced. Future iterations of the program are expected to involve the tracing of other product data, beyond food, as well.
2. The Home Depot
Like Walmart, The Home Depot is also working with IBM on its blockchain project. The retailer is piloting a solution that uses IBM Blockchain technology to track purchases from suppliers, and ensure all inventory is well-maintained, in an effort to minimize vendor disputes. When a variance occurs along the supply chain, The Home Depot and its vendors can refer to records stored in the blockchain to identify where the problem began and address the issue immediately. Because blockchain records are permanent and unchangeable, no one can change records or remove them. As the program expands, The Home Depot believes onboarding additional vendors will make the system even more efficient.
IKEA made headlines when it began using smart contracts on the Ethereum blockchain to facilitate payments from retailers in Iceland back in 2019. Since then, the company has dabbled in blockchain on a number of occasions. Most recently, IKEA began combining blockchain technology with augmented reality (AR) to create digital “twins” of certain objects. Consumers who register those household objects from IKEA on the blockchain can access details about the production journey, components, materials, and carbon footprints for those items. That information can then be stored and shared, allowing consumers to make more informed decisions when they buy, sell, recycle, or throw out household goods.
4. Shake Shack
Shack Shack became one of the first multi-location fast casual chains to lean into the blockchain when it debuted a new limited-time rewards deal back in March. The promotion rewarded customers with a 15% refund paid in Bitcoin when they paid for their orders with Cash App’s Cash Card and its Cash Boost rewards program. At the time, Shake Shack chief marketing officer Jay Livingston said Shake Shack was using the promotion as a way to gauge customers’ interest in cryptocurrency, and the blockchain more generally.
Starbucks’ interest in the blockchain is unique from any other company on this list, in that it’s focused on using the technology to create a “new, global digital community” defined by collaboration, experiences, and shared ownership. Specifically, the company is working on plans to create NFT collections and memberships backed by the blockchain, with the central focus of “coffee art” and storytelling. Starbucks says its blockchain technology will likely be multi-chain or chain agnostic.