Back in 2009, when the first Bitcoin was mined, crypto’s founders envisaged a future where decentralized finance would be the norm and digital currency would render dollars, euros, pounds and yuan obsolete. We all know things haven’t quite turned out that way, but 2024 could turn out to be a watershed year.
In the grand scheme, crypto is still in its infancy. The past couple of years have seen evolution in the market. The issues with FTX and more recently Binance, will be looked back on as representing just another step towards crypto fully maturing and getting its internal shop in order.
Consumers embracing crypto undaunted
That certainly seems to be the attitude among consumers. There was a general assumption among the finance and tech media that the antics of Changpeng Zhao and Sam Bankman-Fried would have a damaging effect on crypto and see a fall in public confidence. These are early days, but the opposite seems to be the case.
There was no crash when Brinkman-Fried issued his rambling, profanity-strewn Tweets or when Zhao was placed under house arrest. On the contrary, the popular perspective seems to be one of relief that now the exchanges have been placed under proper control, we can get on with serious business.
Stablecoins helping to boost confidence
It’s not just the unearthing and removal of empire builders and money launderers that is increasing confidence in crypto – although that certainly helps. Let’s be under no illusions, the biggest barrier to crypto adoption has always been its price volatility.
In the case of Bitcoin, in particular, volatility has made billionaires and paupers. That’s one thing for the Bankman-Frieds of this world, but it’s no way to run a civilized economy. The arrival of stablecoins like Tether could provide a solution.
Stablecoins are cryptocurrencies whose values are pegged to a stable asset. Most commonly, that asset is the US dollar, but it could be some other comparatively stable currency, or a precious metal like gold or silver. Stablecoins deliver all the benefits of crypto, such as transparency, security, transaction speed and minimal cost (especially for cross border transactions). But they do not have the volatility risk of Bitcoin, Ethereum and the rest.
Popular payment gateways like UniPayment offer consumers the opportunity to make USDT payments with Tether, as well as True USD, USD Coin and regular cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum and Litecoin. The benefit here is that both consumers and vendors are protected.
For consumers, using a stablecoin is a way to guard against volatility. But using this kind of payment gateway has benefits for retailers too. Even if a consumer chooses to pay with a traditional cryptocurrency like Bitcoin, there is no risk of being bitten by a sudden change in volatility, as the exchange rate is locked at the moment of the transaction, and the funds can be instantly converted into fiat currency and paid into the vendor’s account.
Crypto finally hitting the mainstream?
Consumer confidence and the additional protection afforded by stablecoins are combining to make crypto a genuine option for everyday transactions. As far as sellers are concerned, everyone knows these are difficult economic times. Most retailers are willing to do whatever it takes to make themselves more accessible to customers, and if that includes opening up their payment options to allow people to pay with crypto, then so be it. Payment gateways like the one mentioned earlier make it easy, cost efficient and low-risk to do so.
The result? An incredible 75 percent of retail businesses will be open to crypto transactions by this time next year. Right now, paying by crypto is still the exception as opposed to the rule, at least as far as B2C transactions are concerned. But tides can turn quickly.
Around 50 percent of businesses now use crypto for cross-border B2B transactions because it is cheaper, faster and more secure than other methods. The same benefits exist in the B2C market, albeit on a smaller scale. Whether 2024 really will be the year that crypto comes of age remains to be seen. One thing is certain. There are interesting months ahead.