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PayPal. Venmo. Affirm. Klarna. Debit. Credit. There are so many ways for customers to pay you for your business’s goods. But there’s another payment enterprise that many small (and big) businesses are considering — cryptocurrency commerce.
You may be familiar with this new-ish form of digital currency. Many people think it’s just for shady characters lurking in the dark corners of the internet. But in reality, big names like Elon Musk, Mark Cuban, and even Snoop Dogg have their paws in the crypto game. Even big businesses like Square and Tesla have invested.
What is cryptocurrency commerce?
Cryptocurrency is the general name for digital currencies that exist solely online, meaning they’re stored and exchanged on the internet. When a business decides to accept cryptocurrency as a form of payment, it then becomes part of cryptocurrency commerce.
Cryptocurrency functions as a collection of binary data grouped and tracked by blockchain technology (which is like a digital ledger that tracks every crypto transaction). It’s secured using digital cryptography, or super-secret messaging that keeps the data safe from theft.
In simpler terms, it’s encrypted data that acts like money and allows you to purchase goods with it. You can also buy and sell it to make a profit.
It’s also decentralized, meaning there are no government or banking institutions that:
- Facilitate trades
- Store the “money”
- Determine its value
Sellers can send the currency right to the buyer using peer-to-peer technology. And when you want to purchase goods and services from cryptocurrency commerce, you can use a digital wallet to send it to a merchant that accepts your form of crypto.
With crypto’s rise over the last decade, many different forms of cryptocurrency have emerged. They often have varying degrees of popularity and, in turn, value.
Crypto typically falls into two categories:
- Coins: Some are in limited supply to create perceived value
- Tokens: These are digital assets that are sold through exclusive contracts and gain value that way
Here are some common types of cryptocurrency currently on the market:
- Bitcoin (crypto that launched into the mainstream in the mid-2010s)
- Dogecoin (meme-inspired crypto that recently gained popularity in mid-2021)
- Ether (on the Ethereum blockchain)
Small business benefits of cryptocurrency commerce
When considering using cryptocurrency commerce for your business, keep the following consumer benefits in mind.
Lower transaction fees
If you accept credit and debit card payments, you know that it costs a pretty penny to pay a third-party company to process those transactions. These fees can eat into your profits or cause you to charge customers more, which could detract them from shopping with you.
But the fees for processing the transaction through a digital crypto payment processing service, as opposed to digital wallet to digital wallet, are far less than those collected with traditional transactions.
Increased sales and customer reach
Accepting a wide variety of payment options allows you to attract business from customers who prefer certain payment methods.
Some examples include:
- Pay-in-portions options (like Affirm)
- Debit and credit cards
This decision likely made your products or services all that more accessible to people who prefer those methods. The same goes for accepting crypto.
And, since many shoppers in other countries are using crypto to safely shop at online stores around the world, you can bring in their business, too.
Improved customer satisfaction
More and more, everyday people are investing in and paying with crypto these days.
Customers like that crypto can protect their personal data and finances while online shopping.
It’s a better way for modern businesses to provide a safe shopping experience for their customers.
Protection against reversed charges
The peer-to-peer technology that powers crypto transactions prevents the payer from canceling transactions once they’ve hit send.
On the flip side, a customer can dispute traditional charges with their bank or a bank can cancel a transaction.
Accepting crypto means you can protect your small ecommerce business from having to hunt down failed payments.
Faster transaction processing times
In addition to guaranteed transactions, crypto’s peer-to-peer technology makes for nearly instantaneous processing. That means you’ll get paid sooner than you would with traditional transactions. Plus, you can convert your crypto into cash that much sooner, too.
What are the risks of cryptocurrency commerce?
Here are the main risks associated with cryptocurrency commerce. Review the notes down below to help you determine if it’s right for your business.
Volatility in crypto value
Since there’s no regulation, cryptocurrency is more likely to jump and fall in value in short periods.
Sometimes the volatility of crypto makes it riskier to accept as payment.
This is because you could accept a crypto payment and the value falls soon after. You might end up making less money than you originally thought.
However, you can better protect your business from the negative impacts of this volatility by regularly documenting these changes as they impact your prices and profits and converting your crypto to cash ASAP.
Volatility can also present challenges in accurately documenting your business’s taxable income.
You must be diligent about documenting a crypto’s value when a customer sends you a payment and when you convert it to cash.
Between those two dates, make sure to track your crypto’s value by noting if you’ve:
- Made money
- Lost money
- Broke even
It’s important to keep track of this info because you could be subject to paying capital gains taxes under certain circumstances. If you hold onto your crypto payment and its value increases after receiving the payment, you could owe these taxes when you cash out.
Unable to use crypto to pay for many business expenses
Much of the world hasn’t caught up to using cryptocurrency commerce yet. This means you may still have to pay traditional currency for:
- Rent on your brick-and-mortar store
- Fees for your online shop
- Other business expenses with traditional currencies
Accepting cryptocurrency payments means that you’ll have to convert it to cash in order to make payments like the ones outlined above. This often adds more steps and time to your expense cycle.
Additionally, if your crypto payment decreases in value before you cash out, you may be short on traditional cash to pay your expenses. This scenario can be a bookkeeping headache since you’ll have to pull money from other sources.
Like traditional transactions, your business and your customers are susceptible to cybersecurity threats. These breaches could jeopardize your personal data and crypto finances.
However, digital wallet applications come packed with high-quality online security measures, including data encryption. Many of these applications reserve only a small percentage of your crypto online to prevent entire devastation.
You can also enable multi-factor authentication as an added layer of security. This allows you to confirm your login credentials with a traditional password and a login using another device.
Another thing to consider with cryptocurrency commerce is the lack of government or bank-backed insurances.
Because there are no government regulations on crypto, you could lose all or some of it in a data breach. Traditional currencies like the U.S. dollar and the Euro are government-backed and insured by government regulation authorities, like the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporations (FDIC).
However, some crypto wallet companies are creating their own insurance policies to meet these demands.
Inconvenient for processing refunds
Since there is no third party processing a crypto transaction, it’s harder to issue refunds to customers. Only you, as the recipient, can send the amount back to them.
But customers cannot use a third-party platform to request their money back or cancel the transaction.
You can offer refunds to customers who aren’t satisfied or encounter an issue receiving their goods or services. But you’ll have to first refer back to your records of who sent you the crypto and the currency’s value at the time.
Then, you can calculate a new amount that reflects changes to the currency’s value. That way you pay them back an amount equal to what it was previously valued at.
Other drawbacks to cryptocurrency
Other considerations could impact your decision to join cryptocurrency commerce. Here are some other drawbacks to note.
Technology hurdles for both businesses and customers
Initiating the process for cryptocurrency commerce can be tricky in the beginning. Accepting crypto requires you to:
- Set up a digital wallet
- Connect it to a bank account
- Include a widget or link that allows customers to pay with crypto
This can take some technological prowess, but many ecommerce platforms like Etsy have already begun integrating it onto their platforms. This can include payment portals for sellers who want to accept that form of payment.
Additionally, digital wallet applications like Coinbase have simplified the process of setting up a wallet. This makes it more accessible to business owners, regardless of prior tech knowledge. But it’s still a process that you’ll have to weather.
Tight logistical requirements
The market volatility of crypto makes it incredibly important for business owners to document:
- Each crypto purchase
- Date of purchase
- Date you receive payment
- Value on the date of purchase
- Value on the date you receive payment and more
One way to reduce logistical nightmares is to only accept crypto for large customer purchases. This helps you cut down the number of purchases you have to track regularly.
Negative environmental impacts
The blockchain technology that powers crypto transactions takes a lot of energy.
According to the BBC, Bitcoin, one of the most popular cryptocurrency networks in the world, uses 121 Terawatt-hours of electricity per year, more than the entire nation of Argentina.
And as crypto becomes more popular, the amount of energy used to create blocks and distribute these currencies increases. This results in an incredible use of fossil fuels that are contributing to:
- Global climate change
- Electronic waste and other environmental concerns
So, if your small business is eco-conscious you might want to think twice before you take the leap into cryptocurrency commerce. Crypto can go against your business’s mission if you’re actively trying to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels.
Government regulation laws are in the works
Right now, the U.S. government and others around the world are drafting and litigating policies that would regulate cryptocurrency for banks and the stock market.
Currently, the lack of regulations has made it possible for fewer transaction fees. But that may go away in the future, making crypto no longer beneficial to small businesses.
On the other hand, legislation may also mitigate risks that impact both customers and businesses. But that is yet to be seen.
How to accept cryptocurrency safely
So you’ve decided to join cryptocurrency commerce. Here are some steps you should follow to integrate this into your ecommerce site and securely take crypto payments online:
- Choose a digital wallet and/or crypto payment processing provider. Some trusted platforms include BitPay, CoinBase, CoinPayments, GoCoin, and PayPal.
- Add your bank account details. Provide a copy of your ID, business address, and other details to verify your identity and remove transaction limitations that are automatically placed on new accounts.
- Pick your currency conversion. Your choice may depend on crypto-to-traditional currency conversion rates, your country of operation’s currency, and conversion rates from a foreign currency to your country’s currency.
- Set up a crypto payment link. You can provide both in-person and online customers with a unique payment link or QR code to use at your point of sale. You can also use your digital wallet’s online payment widget or integration function on your website.
- Provide resources to your customers. On your site, consider publishing a guide or linking to your provider’s site that handles payment processing. Include information that discusses how to use cryptocurrency for payments, the safety measures in place, and other details that teach and reassure your consumers.
As a small business owner, you must stay on top of technological advances in ecommerce. That way you can:
- Have a competitive edge in your market
- Attract customers with diverse preferences and needs
- Be ahead of the curve in case these advances become the norm
If you’re considering adding cryptocurrency commerce to your site, GoDaddy has some excellent solutions for creating and managing an online store that make that process easier.