Cryptocurrencies are far from mainstream in retail currently. However, with growing interest in crypto payments from major retailers, big corporate names such as Kroger and Starbucks are beginning to look to Bitcoin and the Lightning Network as a payment channel.
Interest in retail crypto comes amid disappointment with legacy payment systems, but sparks hope that with more big conversions to crypto payments, it could provide a key tipping point toward widespread adoption.
Events seem to be moving in the right direction for crypto payments, though experts agree that it will take more than just a few isolated use cases before the industry can witness adoption on a larger scale. In addition, payment interfaces will need to be improved and made more consumer-friendly, according to experts.
Supermarket giant Kroger announced at the beginning of March that it would no longer accept Visa credit cards at over 250 of its stores. “Visa has been misusing its position and charging retailers excessive fees for a long time,” said Kroger executive VP Mike Schlotman. He also noted that Visa’s fees were the highest out of all credit cards Kroger accepts.
Morgan Creek Digital founder Anthony Pompliano commented on the news, stating that the “Morgan Creek Digital team will fly to meet them and get them hooked up with the Lightning Network nationwide.” While Kroger didn’t mention adding a Lightning Network, Pompliano further tweeted on March 3, announcing that he just “finished up first call with someone on Kroger Digital team,” and that his followers should “stay tuned” for more updates.
“Adoption of Lightning Network by a major retailer would definitely be a big deal for the entire crypto space,” says Vilius Semenas, the chief commercial officer at crypto-payment processor CoinGate. “For Bitcoin, exposure to real consumers on such a scale could only do good and pave the way toward another level of adoption.”
Semenas says there is definitely enthusiasm amongst major retails for a new payment network to replace legacy systems. “The card payments industry is unique in that Visa and MasterCard control the lion’s share of the consumer base,” he told Cointelegraph. “At the same time, innovation adoption in this space takes a long time because the market is two-sided and needs adoption from both consumers and retailers. Retailers are naturally frustrated, because they have little-to-no ability to affect card payments, and they would probably turn to alternative payment rails if they could.”
Other big companies are also considering the idea of switching to the Lightning Network and crypto payments. Starbucks, for example, will begin accepting Bitcoin payments at its U.S. outlets by the end of 2019, according to industry rumors.
Last August, the coffee giant emerged as one of Bakkt’s key partners, in addition to Microsoft and consultancy BCG. Starbucks will not only be working with Bakkt to create its platform, but it will also be using the platform to accept crypto payments, according to the press release announcing Bakkt and its partnerships.
“As the flagship retailer, Starbucks will play a pivotal role in developing practical, trusted and regulated applications for consumers to convert their digital assets into US dollars for use at Starbucks,” Smith said. “As a leader in Mobile Pay to our more than 15 million Starbucks Rewards members, Starbucks is committed to innovation for expanding payment options for our customers.”