Blockchain. Blockchain. Blockchain. If there’s a buzzier buzz word currently sailing across the corporate universe right now, I don’t know what it would be (Internet of Things?). Here at our Charlotte branding agency, one of our clients puts on two of the world’s largest supply chain trade shows, and that industry is VERY excited about the transformational power of blockchain and its ability to drive greater efficiency and transparency in supply chain operations – positively impacting everything from warehousing to delivery to payment. Fair enough. But from a marketing and branding perspective, what’s the potential for blockchain – and why should brands care?
First, a quick primer on what blockchain is and how it works: a blockchain is a database shared across a network of computers. Once a record has been added to the chain it is very difficult to change. To ensure all the copies of the database are the same, the network makes constant checks. Blockchains have been used to underpin cyber-currencies like bitcoin, but many other possible uses are emerging.
Blockchain and Loyalty Programs
Most of the founding principles that drive interest in blockchain’s supply chain applications are the same as for marketing, but with a few twists. In supply chain, it’s all about visibility into who has touched a product, how long the trip took, and what was done to it along the way as it moved from Shanghai to Charlotte. In supply chains and manufacturing, it’s critical to create a common record per product that can still be used and updated by multiple parties with different data needs across the entire manufacturing and logistics landscape.
In marketing applications, it’s not the record so much as the identity of the participants adding to the record that is critical. This is a bit ironic, given one of the founding objectives of blockchain was to let you buy illicit products anonymously on the Dark Web. If you need transactions to explicitly identify who is transacting, however, then blockchain becomes a powerful tool for visibility into the multiple parties participating in a transaction.
Once you have established identity, then you can start adding roles and permissions to those identities. And this is the most powerful part of blockchain, especially when it comes to marketing applications – sharing the right data with the right partners and giving permission to engage in activities on your behalf or revoking that permission if necessary.
Swych – A Gifting-as-a-Service Platform
Swych is a great example of a new blockchain startup that provide consumers a “ wallet” to hold, buy, and send gift cards, and trade in gift card balances for balances with other companies.
It’s mobile gifting platform enables consumers and businesses to send “swychable” gifts from their mobile device, which can be redeemed at any retailer on the network (which currently has over 600 popular brands like Nike, Bed Bath & Beyond, Nordstrom, and Kohl’s).
This Gifting-as-Service platform eliminates the time consuming and expensive setup of plastic gifting and replaces it with a quick and easy SDK and API for enterprises to completely digitize, simplify, and white label incentive programs – at a fraction of the cost of traditional plastic gift card programs.
Even though the gift card industry remains a popular option for many around the world – increasing, on average, around 5 to 10% year-over-year in the past decade, plastic gift cards are prone to fraud and inflexibility. In addition, traditional plastic gift cards don’t always scale across borders, with many simply forgotten at the back of drawers.
Realizing the potential of blockchain technology, Swych’s integration opens up new horizons for cross-border gifting, as well other exciting new applications like employee incentives, easy access to merchant offers, loyalty redemption, and frictionless travel shopping.
The Bottom Line
Block chain applications for marketing are still coming into focus, and at the moment it remains a bit of the Wild West, but if Swych can fulfill its mission to create the global standard for digital gifting, users will be able to send, redeem, and “swych” digital gift cards without any prior knowledge of the technology, while maintaining security, transaction speeds, and the flexibility of the gifting platform. What’s not to love?