It seems we live in a world constantly conflicted by the opinions of giant corporations and everyday consumers. This has been a factor in society (and governments) for generations. However, it appears we are currently on the cusp on a monumental shift in the business landscape.
Emerging blockchain technology is ushering in a new era built on strong foundations of customer involvement and objective trade.
Blockchain refers to decentralized, incorruptible digital records of economic transactions with the ability to be programmed to record virtually all activity with a specified value.
While this concept is still very much in the infancy stages, the future is looking incredibly bright. Here are three major ways blockchain is bringing new meaning to consumerism.
Empowering the People
Blockchain will ideally put a significant amount of buying and selling power into the hands of the people participating.
For example, we currently live in a world fueled by real-time data. The bulk of the valuable information consumers produce is currently in the hands of large corporations. With blockchain tech, the data you produce is more or less yours to use and sell as you please.
For instance, there has been a great deal of buzz over the past few years about electric, self-driving cars. Now, for these to do what we expect them to, they need to gather specific data from a number of outside sources for information on traffic conditions, weather, charging stations and prices, and much more. Additionally, the car itself produces a myriad of datasets in relation to battery life, distances to destinations, maintenance issues, etc. All of this information is valuable to advertisers.
Blockchain provides a domain in which users can easily buy and sell this type of relevant data as needed. This concept is known as the “data-stream economy.” Decentralized, post-ICO platforms like Streamr are making this process even easier. Streamr is connected to the Ethereum blockchain and provides a top-to-bottom system that allows users to create tokenized apps to capitalize on data streams (with no prior coding expertise necessary). These streams can be easily combined with smart contracts, visualizations, and off-chain analytics.
Most importantly, the apps seamlessly aggregate data in real-time, filter it, and extract the valuable information. The Streamr engine is designed to run on decentralized computer providers (such as Golem) and handle large amounts of data from sources such as IoT devices, social media, financial exchanges, and others. Next, the data streams are categorized and displayed on the Streamr network, and can be bought and sold with Datacoin tokens.
These types of blockchain platforms aren’t just changing consumerism; they are creating an entirely new economy in which consumers play a central role in the exchange.
Promoting Product Transparency
Perhaps the most common theme in modern consumerism is people want to know as much about their purchases as possible. A 2016 Label Insight survey established that 73% of consumers are willing to spend more on a product that promises total transparency. This can be in relation to where or how the materials are found and extracted, the conditions of the factory where the goods are produced, and the ethics behind the entire process.
Blockchain tech is making the process much more visible as businesses are now able to track all related information throughout the lifecycle of every product before it hits the marketplace. Each step in the supply chain will be part of a linear record of data within a blockchain, in which all interactions can be verified.
Brands like Patagonia are well-known for embracing this concept and keeping their devoted customers in the loop every step of the way – it has actually become a defining factor in their business model. The “Footprint Chronicles” aim to educate their customers on their manufacturing process, from raw material to finished product.
As a result, they are able to convey brand values that boast a powerful sense of environmental awareness and clean practices.
A major benefit of this strategy is that it can do wonders to increase trust and brand loyalty. Blockchain encourages companies to promote a sense of transparency throughout their operations. For as much that this idea will work to improve business-customer relations, it will also help companies pinpoint inefficiencies and cut down on waste.
As this approach catches on, it will inevitably bring on new standards, in which businesses will need to adopt ethical and more streamlined processes. Ultimately, the supply chain could well evolve into a supply circle, where both producers and consumers act interchangeably as “prosumers,” depending on their vantage point.
Redefining the Sharing Economy
One of the most fascinating widespread emergences in the past decade has been the sharing economy. At first mention, the two services that probably come to mind are Uber and Airbnb. The commonality in these types of sharing programs is they primarily rely on contributions generated by the users within.
The business model seen today promotes decentralization to a certain degree – and relieves organizations of needing physical offices or assets.
As successful as this concept is, one of the most prominent flaws lies in the fact that the value produced by the users is not always redistributed equally to the those who contributed. A considerable chunk of the profits goes to the large intermediaries who operate the systems.
Adding blockchain to mix could potentially change the sharing economy as we know it. What would happen is the blockchain would decentralize these operations even further and eliminate the intermediary altogether. There would no longer be a need for a centralized server and the users would be able to conduct business on a peer-to-peer network.
Take Arcade City for example. It is a ridesharing platform that operates similarly to Uber. Each user is a node within the system, which is visible to everyone involved.
The difference is, there is no centralized operator (like Uber) running the show. The program is governed by the code set up on the blockchain-based infrastructure – designed for the security and safety of user-to-user (passenger-to-driver) interaction. Trade operates with specific tokens that represent a share within the platform.
The more the driver contributes to the system, the higher their stock will go.
These types of peer-to-peer networks are built by local communities, as opposed to giant corporations. There’s no question the sharing economy is here to stay. Blockchain tech will only make the concept more about the people involved.
Blockchain is showing a lot of promise in altering the perception of consumerism that we are used to. The end result of implementation would ideally work to replace the top-down business model and create systems that enable everyday users to cooperate for the greater good.
The effects of widespread adoption could be the grim reaper for many colossal corporations across the world.