Bitcoin came onto the scene in 2009, and although its source remains anonymous it has become a major form of currency in the global market. Bitcoin’s validity was debatable at first, but skeptics were quieted when its value rose quickly; it has fluctuated greatly since then, yet it is still becoming an increasingly popular payment method for e-commerce businesses and online sales.
Is accepting bitcoin right for your business? The answer for most businesses will be yes, however there are important considerations to make when thinking about accepting bitcoin for online purchases. Let’s hold the digital magnifying glass up to bitcoin and see if it’s right for you.
First things first: what is bitcoin?
Bitcoin is a digital decentralized peer-to-peer cryptocurrency.
Wow – now that’s a very cryptic description. Let’s break it down. When we say bitcoin is decentralized, that means it doesn’t belong to a particular country or bank, and thus is not subject to a single administrator or governing body. For example, there is the U.S. dollar, which belongs to the United States and falls under the jurisdiction of the Federal Reserve; there is the pound sterling, which belongs to the United Kingdom and is controlled by the United Kingdom government; then there’s bitcoin, which belongs to no particular country and follows no set rules.
Bitcoin was created as a decentralized currency to allow users to have greater freedom with the way they stored and spent their money, and also to prevent a person or group of people from enforcing nefarious control over its value. Erik Voorhees writes for Bitcoin Magazine, “Consider: since every CoinBase [one of the major bitcoin transacting platforms] user can opt out and leave the platform, this presents a natural check on CoinBase’s ability to act with impropriety, and makes coercion impossible.”
Next in that bitcoin definition: bitcoin is fully digital. You will not have a smattering of bitcoins at the bottom of your sock drawer after an international vacation. There are no printed notes or minted coins; bitcoin exists solely as numbers on a screen. All transactions are completed online, following the increasing trend of the digitization of companies by fintech companies and major banks alike.
Bitcoin transactions are peer-to-peer, meaning they are sent directly from one individual to another. Your transaction doesn’t have to go through a bank, but is rather sent from one person or organization to another using a unique, encrypted code. This means that fees are very low, with some companies not charging any fees at all. An individual holds their bitcoins in what’s known as a wallet, and there are multiple companies that offer these wallets to consumers and businesses.
Finally, regarding bitcoin being a cryptocurrency, this has to do with the way transactions are processed. The codes that are used to facilitate the exchange of bitcoins employ cryptography to ensure their safety. The individuals’ identities are not revealed, but a public record of the transaction is available, making this a highly secure yet fully transparent monetary system.
The big question: should I accept bitcoin at my e-commerce site?
There are both pros and cons to accepting bitcoins, but currently the good outweighs the bad.
Your first consideration should be the size and number of transactions your business tends to make. If you are a large company and your transactions are few but large, bitcoin may not be advantageous in the current currency environment (although, of course, that may change). However, if you’re a small company or your transactions are frequent and in small amounts, bitcoin could offer huge savings in transaction fees.
Credit card companies charge fees to businesses that tend to be between 2% and 3%. As mentioned previously, bitcoin’s transaction fees are between 0% and 1%, netting a potential total savings of 1% to 3%. If you’re a small business owner, you know that 1% to 3% can make a huge impact on your bottom line, thus the savings from accepting bitcoin on your e-commerce site could be substantial. Since small businesses do not operate on the same scale as larger companies, they do not have the bargaining power to negotiate lower rates with credit card companies. Therefore, they stand to save a massive amount by accepting bitcoin.
Another benefit to using bitcoin is that bitcoin transactions complete very quickly, in a matter of minutes, as opposed to days as with credit cards. Getting paid quickly is very important for small and medium businesses who require a steady cash flow to maintain operations. The nuts and bolts of how transactions are processed is where things can be somewhat difficult to understand, but we’ll give it a try: after a bitcoin transaction is initiated, it needs to be verified by a bitcoin miner – that’s someone whose job it is to process bitcoin transactions. Since this is an individual and not a company, financial institution, or governing body, it keeps with the decentralized model of the bitcoin currency. Once a miner verifies, or “solves,” a bitcoin transaction the funds are then transferred from one account to the other.
Although this process may sound time consuming, it usually takes about 10-20 minutes from start to finish, or up to an hour if network connectivity is below par. This is exponentially less time than credit card transactions or wire transfers, which take days to complete, and this time saving can prove hugely beneficial to small and medium businesses. After all, time is money.
The next benefit to bitcoin transactions is that they are final, which means that the chargebacks or returns that sometimes occur with credit card transactions cannot and do not happen with bitcoin. Customer disputes can delay credit card payments and disrupt cash flow, and can also be quite costly, charging the merchant a fee between $5 and $20 per chargeback. If chargebacks occur too frequently, a business can be placed in a chargeback monitoring program, the fee for which is a costly $5,000. Bitcoin’s rapid transaction speed negates the possibility of chargebacks entirely: when a customer makes a purchase, it happens in a matter of minutes and with no room for second thought. This does not, however, mean businesses can be foolhardy with their practices, as online reviews are still alive and well, so business ethics are not to be sacrificed.
Businesses that have international customers also stand to benefit by using bitcoin; in addition, companies that have been unable to go global due to size restrictions or foreign transaction charges will find accepting bitcoin an easier way into the international market. No matter the financial institution or country, banks that facilitate purchases across borders will find a way to get their cut of the deal in one way or another – after all, those fees should be going to the business and not the bank. On the other hand, because bitcoin is decentralized, businesses will never have to pay foreign transaction fees.Businesses will, however, need to consider fluctuations in currency rates.
Finally, businesses that accept bitcoin can enjoy an improved public perception by being on the cutting edge of technology. Bitcoin is the new kid on the block when it comes to currency, and carries with it the appeal of being the coolest and most hip type of currency today. By accepting bitcoin, businesses piggyback on bitcoin’s state-of-the-art feel and will be thought of by their customers as a pioneer in e-commerce.
What are the risks associated with accepting bitcoin?
As with any online exchange of funds, there are risks to take into account when considering bitcoin as an online payment method. While bitcoin’s being decentralized is one of the key benefits bitcoin users will proselytize, on the flip side that may scare some merchants. Even though almost all major countries accept bitcoin as payment, some do not, reflecting market uncertainty. Some argue that bitcoin being decentralized means it is more likely to fluctuate, while others insist that its decentralization is precisely the reason it will not fluctuate, since it does not depend on a single country or institution to determine its stability.
Bitcoin has seen massive fluctuation since it was created, which also means it can be difficult to price goods accurately without knowing the current exchange rate of bitcoin with local currency. This could be a significant challenge for an accounting department, as businesses may need to be able to change the price of their goods or services almost daily to correspond with bitcoin fluctuation.
How can I get started with using bitcoin?
If a business would like to start accepting bitcoin payments but expects small numbers of transactions, it might want to begin by simply by creating a bitcoin wallet and advertising on the website that it accepts bitcoin, and to contact the business directly to facilitate payments on a case-by-case basis. This is an easy entry into the bitcoin platform.
For businesses that want to really get the ball rolling, they will want to use a bitcoin payment company. There is a handful of these companies on the market today, and each one offers a slightly different solution to accept bitcoins. Check out Bitpay, Coinbase, and Stripe to see which one works best for your online business.
Despite its anonymous cloak-and-dagger beginnings, in just eight years bitcoin has become a legitimate, internationally recognized global currency, not only with huge investment potential but also with multiple potential benefits to e-commerce businesses. Bitcoin’s positive attributes are many, although they must be tempered with the risks of a currency that has fluctuated a lot in its short life. Accepting bitcoins as a payment method is relatively straightforward, and can have great benefits for a company’s market perception. If bitcoin is the future of online payment systems, consider this article your crystal ball: we see bitcoin in your future.
Nearly every industry today is abuzz with the promises of artificial intelligence. AI’s applications span multiple types of business, touting benefits of automation, machine learning, and – more broadly speaking – intrinsically transforming the way the world of enterprise works.
However, there’s a little niggle in the nomenclature that plagues AI when we apply it to marketing: artificial. If AI is the marketing revolution we’ve all been waiting for, how can we transform it from something artificial into real, actionable ways of improving the way our company’s marketing works?
Fear not, there’s hope. Amidst the hype of artificial intelligence in marketing is a solid foundation of solutions that not only preach the benefits of AI, but actually deliver. Let’s line up the most promising of these solutions, and determine which of them could be a real-life game changer for the business world.
Artificial Intelligence and Written Content
This is an area of AI that will immediately raise red flags for some. How can a computer create a thoughtful, informed, innovative piece of written content that rivals that of a human being?
Simply put, it can’t. AI is years, probably centuries, away from being able to develop engaging, thought-leadership content for a human audience.
Yet all is not lost: if it’s fact-based content you’re after, this is where AI has been earning its stripes lately – and in a big way. Companies like Narrative Science (makers of Quill) and Automated Insights have developed technologies that take a set of data surrounding a particular subject and, using a proprietary algorithm built with a specific set of vocabulary, produce natural-sounding written content. Both Narrative Science and Automated Insights have been around for a few years, but they’ve spent their time refining their systems to their current states. And we have to say, it’s pretty darn good.
For example, Automated Insights’ AI technology was used to produce this story about a Major League Baseball game. Here’s a snippet:
Cristian Alvarado tossed a one-hit shutout and Yermin Mercedes homered and had two hits, driving in two, as the Delmarva Shorebirds topped the Greensboro Grasshoppers 6-0 in the second game of a doubleheader on Wednesday.
In a fraction of the time it would have taken a human to write this content, Automated Insights’ artificial intelligence wrote an article that was of the same quality, if not better, than a human sports reporter.
Marketing AI like that from Automated Insights and Narrative Sciences poses huge potential benefits for companies. That’s not to say that machines are necessarily better at producing written content, but rather that human workers’ resources should be utilized in areas where technology is currently – and perhaps will forever be – lacking: creation of ideas, opinions, innovation, new ways of thinking, the Achilles’ heel of computers. For starters, humans are more expensive and slower than machines. Lest we forget the lessons of George Orwell’s 1984, there are parts of content creation that can be left to machines. When written content is merely a regurgitation of a set of facts, marketing AI can save both time and money for companies.
Another way AI in content offers huge potential benefits is in SEO. A pillar of SEO strategy is to post relevant, fresh, keyword-rich content on a regular basis. AI marketing technology uses data from recent news stories and weaves it into an article while employing a weighted set of keywords focused on SEO strategy, which can then be posted directly to a website. AI therefore gives businesses a constant stream of website content that the bots at Google are sure to love.
Machine Learning and the Sales Funnel
Discussing the ins, outs, ups downs, and everything-in-betweens of the sales funnel is the bane of many marketing and sales teams’ existence. But what if marketing AI could help these teams navigate their sales funnel – say, for example, predict both the likelihood of a given lead converting to a sale and give an estimate of how much the sale would be worth, based solely on the lead’s behavior? Or if you could predict that one of your current customers was about to start spending more or less before even they know that? For the right type of business, machine learning with predictive analytics could be the most significant game changer to date.
Big data has been available for quite some time now, but we’ve been waiting for the software tools that will allow us to utilize this data. And that’s where the predictive analytics come in. The data set provided for machine learning is the key determinant to how well it can work: machine learning is used to create propensity models that assess a given lead’s behavior and, depending on the specificity of the data set on which it’s built, determine how likely it is for that lead to become a sale. From there, human resources from the sales team can either be allocated to the lead in order to nurture it through to a sale, or the lead can be abandoned so that resources don’t have to spend time chasing a prospect who is unlikely to convert.
One big player in predictive analytics is IBM, which has two main tools – SPSS Statistics and SPSS Modeler – designed to have a large breadth of applications in multiple parts of a large enterprise. SPSS Statistics is optimized for managing large data sets and producing advanced analytics models for a company’s broader marketing plan, where SPSS is action-focused, building models that help businesses make important decisions or realign their primary foci. Another company that offers predictive marketing analytics is Optimove, whose approach is somewhat more customer friendly and easy to understand, and better suited to SMEs.
This is another area where predictive analytics can pay off in dividends for a marketing team. Propensity models are created to track a given customer’s behavior in relation to their likelihood to convert, as we discussed above, but dynamic pricing introduces an additional opportunity to convert. Dynamic pricing offers a product at a discounted rate when the propensity model predicts it is necessary to get the sale. By doing this, only some customers are offered a product at a lower cost, therefore increasing the overall profit for the company by not offering the discount to everyone, as well as maintaining a high rate of conversion for customers who would otherwise have moved on to a competitor. It’s a bit like those website pop-ups that are triggered when a user begins to move the mouse toward the back or close button, presenting a desired CTA like a newsletter sign-up or discount. Dynamic pricing goes a step further and bases the incentive off a more specific set of behaviors, increasing the overall probability of a sale.
IBM is also a big player in this space, however again is focused at enterprise-level businesses. For companies with both brick-and-mortar stores and an ecommerce setup, dynamic pricing can coordinate prices among all touch points to influence online prices and physical stores. For companies that are publicly listed, it can also take into account market fluctuations when adjusting pricing. Omnia is a company that takes a connected network of sales locations, both online and offline, which they call “omni-channel profit”.
Chatbots are another product of marketing and machine learning designed to improve the efficiency with which your customer service team operates. However, they’re not as expensive or difficult to create as one might assume, and as such are available for many businesses to take advantage of, even without a massive budget.
Facebook has developed an easy-to-use development feature to help businesses create their own chatbots on the Facebook Messenger platform. The chatbots created are capable of designing interactive and engaging CTAs, then sending them to customers along with text and images, as well as staying on-brand with a custom welcome screen and invitation to start a conversation.
Even if your business just uses a chatbot as a gatekeeper in order to channel customer inquiries to the appropriate team member, you’re offering your customers a higher and more efficient quality of service while allowing specific allocation of valuable human resources to a place where they will provide the most value for your business.
This is one area of AI that you’ve probably already noticed, although its application to digital marketing is somewhat out of the box. Possibly one of the most impressive abilities of search engines like Google and Bing is their ability to use AI to know determine you are attempting to search for, even when your search term isn’t an exact match for your intended results. When it comes to marketing, this is a game changer for SEO: soon it will not be enough to optimize pages with keywords alone, but the focus will have to shift to writing about topics more broadly, including both keywords in multiple related formats (“AI in marketing,” “market with AI,” how to use AI in your marketing”) as well as related phrases and ideas (“machine learning and marketing,” “AI and the sales funnel”, “how to automate sales conversions”). Weaving these tactics into your content will give you a better shot at making page one as artificial intelligence solidifies its place in search engines.
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At the core of all these types of artificial intelligence is an easier, more intelligent way to do work. Marketing will never be an entirely computer-driven task: humans will always be required to read the subtle nuances of the market and adapt accordingly. However, many of the processes that are part of a marketing department’s daily routine can be automated using fewer human resources than before, freeing up those resources to perform human-only tasks. We’re starting to discover that AI is not as artificial as we previously thought, and that real results can be delivered today.
Brazil hasn’t had the easiest economic ride over the past five years or so. Since Forbes hailed it as “one of the most entrepreneurial countries in the world” back in 2012, it has suffered a crippling recession and a corruption scandal that led to President Dilma Rousseff being impeached. Rio put on a superb show in 2016 as Olympic host, even with the accompanying scandal around building projects, and the deepening economic crisis. However, economic crises often lead to a surge in startups and developing industries, and Brazil is no exception.
There are over a billion websites online today and as many as 75 million servers. Of these, as many as 2 million are owned by Microsoft and Google. With a business there comes a website. We all know this means a server too. The basic, shared, inexpensive hosting plans are great at first, but within a short time we discover they just don’t have the bandwidth to help support our online needs as a business grows.
The next question is: Should the next choice be a dedicated or a virtual server? What is more important, security or flexibility? We can help you decide!
Digital transformation is the buzz phrase, but what does it mean for mere mortals struggling with contemporary business issues and developments? 100TB investigates…
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