What is the blockchain good for to the average guy?
Yes, you can pay without using banks as an intermediary. But until the full economical circle, from production to consumption, runs oiled by a blockchain currency, that is not going to help much.
One needs to be able to earn a living paid in crypto and then find stores which sell the goods and services one needs, and which accept payment in that crypto.
Yes, steem allows anyone with a brain to earn crypto by producing and curating content.
But there are not enough stores accepting STEEM/SBD for the time being.
Besides, the banking infrastructure in the Western developed world is pretty good already and getting better by the day, making "the friction" introduced by banks (as intermediaries) lower and lower.
But blockchains in general and steem in particular can do much more than that.
Just bought a microwave for my Dad in Bucharest
Freedom to forget boring details
Do you ever buy electronic appliances? You know, like a microwave oven, a washing machine, perhaps a coffee machine or a rice cooker? You know how they come with a warranty, which assures you that, should the appliance malfunction in the next one or two years (or perhaps 5 years if you pay extra), it will be replaced, or someone will come to repair it?
So you take that (paper) warranty on day 1 and, knowing that it is important, you store it / file it carefully in a safe place...
But then life gets complicated and perhaps the "safe place" gets overcrowded with other papers and you decide to expand it or move it somewhere else in the house. Or you move house. Or the hamster escapes and it gnaws through your carefully stored warranties (it happened to me), etc...
Nela, our hamster, has escaped!
And then of course some time passes and the appliance breaks. It was guaranteed for 2 years. You strive to remember when you bought it ... about 2 years ago, but was it a bit more or a bit less than two years ago?
And where is that folder where you carefully saved the warranty? I don't know about you, but I usually start rummaging helplessly through piles of old bank statements which I should have gotten rid of long ago, "important" printouts with yellowed borders and contents which read long obsolete, and touching drawings by my little princesses ... But there's no warranty ...
Or, if I locate a stash of them, precisely the one I'm looking for is missing ... or it has been printed on thermal paper and all the text on it disappeared!
Steem, memory extension
So what is a desperate case like me to do? Well, here's an idea: instead of storing the paper warranty in a folder (like the one in the picture above), I'll take a picture and store it on steem with some appropriate tags:
- warranty - because this is the general category
- the type of appliance: microwave
- the date
The benefit for the shop as compared with a printout of a picture that I would hand them in, say May 2021 (more than 2 years after the acquisition) is the timestamp of the blockchain confirming that I did not Photoshopped the picture to change the "02" (February) into a "05" (May). Of course, if they had the means to ensure that the account having saved the picture on the blockchain in February 2019 really belongs to the person who is in front of them claiming warranty, it would be even better ...
Do you spot a business model here?
Put yourself in the shoes of this high-street electronics retailer, Altex Romania which probably owes its survival to the fact that there is no Amazon Romania yet.
- you have to pay rent for prime commercial space in the city center, whereas online retailers like Amazon can rent much cheaper warehouse space in the boonies
- the warehouse space Amazon rents is much more densely used, as the boxes can be stacked high, whereas your shop needs to be welcoming and roomy
- you have to pay 5 agreeable, articulate, polite vendors whereas Amazon can employ 3 forklift operators instead.
So you need an idea to turn your weaknesses into strengths and leverage the expensive prime commercial space in order to create a bond with your customers, a shopping experience that would develop into loyalty to you as a vendor.
Indeed, the weakness of the retailers is that they compete almost exclusively on price. Yes, there's the convenience of the location and the advice, but quite often people come to see the product in a high-street shop, ask for (free) advice and then compare the prices online. Usually, where Amazon is present, it is also cheaper than the brick-and-mortar shops, so people thank the salespeople who advised them on the best product and then, ungratefully, proceed to order the same product from Amazon for less. That is normal, because there is no social contract between the customer and the shop, the customers sees no reason to show loyalty to the shop, the relationship is purely financial
Now imagine I'm Altex and I invest in SP and start claiming discounted accounts (because I'm cost conscious). When people enter my shops, I offer to create a steem account for them and become a GDPR "Data Processor" - I know and store the details of the customer which are necessary to fulfill a contract (GDPR allows that), and link those details (which are stored in my internal "customer database") with a steem account I create, say @altex012345678.
I can even show to the customer what else she can do with steem (such as for instance use @appics) for free.
Anyway, I manage to sell her something and explain that by default the normal warranty runs for 2 years but we (Altex) can extend that warranty to 3 years, 4 years or 5 years in exchange for:
- the classical sales pitch involves an additional fiat payment. That still works but now we have more powerful sales incentives
- the right to send commercial offers (for cross-selling) and / or
- some posts on the social media apps of steem about the cool shopping experience we offer (posts that the Altex would upvote, of course)
- the right to sell access to the customer's data in exchange for fair payment
Then the warranty is stored on the blockchain associated with the buyer's account. It's not me, @sorin.cristescu publishing it, but @altex012345678. Only me (holder of the private keys) and Altex itself (recovery account) know who is behind that account so my "PII" (in GDPR jargon) is not on the blockchain.
But there is a link between an individual and a "sales event". By being available on the public blockchain, this link offers Altex the possibility to propose the data it holds about the customer in its own internal "customer database" to other interested companies (Daewoo might want to know the speed at which its microwave ovens sell, or the profile of the buyers of their microwaves in Romania).
Of course consent of the customer and fair compensation (for instance an warranty extension or a voucher for future purchases, etc.) are needed, but even more than that. The key here is to leverage the "community building" functionality native to the steem blockchain..
Altex should focus here on creating and animating a community of future, present and past customers and extend the relationship with them beyond the merely financial. Altex the electronics retailer should thus create a permanent bond with its customers, a better shopping experience, and can then gradually extend its hardware retail business with a new one based on data.
Of course this model can be applied to many other high-street shops, not just electronics (furniture, gardening tools, etc.)
Go sell this to shop owners who trust you
If this is such a good idea, why am I "spilling it"? Am I possibly forfeiting a fortune?
Here a revolutionary aspect of blockchain can be illustrated.
I am an "idea plant" and drown in ideas which to me are a permanent source of frustration, because less than 1% materialize. Pointedly, I don't have personal access to the owners of the Altex in Romania, Kreffel in Belgium or Saturn / MediaMarkt in Germany and know no one who has. Consequently, this idea would either never materialize, or it would materialize much later, when it would arrive at the ears of the decision makers in these big companies.
But maybe in the steem community someone has access (perhaps among the Korean steemians, who knows). And I am invested in steem - so if this leads some big player to invest and buy serious amounts of SP, I'll benefit indirectly from the increase in steem's price. It's called "incentive alignment".
In this way, steem becomes an open collaboration platform, a vector which accelerates the circulation of ideas and enables them to materialize faster.
The Happy End
I know you've only read this far because you wanted to know what happened to Nela. Well, we found her, she was hungry (paper doesn't provide much calories to a hamster), brought her back in her house and gave her food and water. Here she is, happy (you spot the smile on her cute face?) and well fed
Hamsters on the blockchain ... hmmm ... can I come up with a business model for this? Now THAT is a challenge!
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