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The Future of Cryptocurrency in Online eCommerce

The emergence of Bitcoin and an array of alternative cryptocurrencies over the past 5 years has been one of the true phenomena of global eCommerce. Initially a purely person-to-person mechanism, cryptocurrencies are increasingly being offered by online retailers as purchasing options.

According to the latest market study by Juniper Research, the number of active Bitcoin users worldwide will reach 4.7 million by the end of 2019 -- that's up from just over 1.3 million in 2014.

However, the findings from the study also reveal that usage will continue to be dominated by exchange trading, with retail adoption largely restricted to relatively niche demographics.

While a number of high profile retailers are enabling Bitcoin payment, activity levels from both online and offline deployments are extremely low. Of course, growth in new user adoption could change, over time.

"While average daily transaction volumes have increased by around 50 percent since March 2014, the indications are that much of this growth results from higher transaction levels by established users rather from any substantial uplift in consumer adoption," said Dr Windsor Holden, head of consultancy at Juniper Research.

Juniper cited a number of factors which it claimed would continue to inhibit growth, most notably the difficulty in communicating the concept of cryptocurrency payments to end users.

It also argued that Bitcoin’s historical association with – and continued use by – criminals for illegal purchases and money laundering was likely to act as a further deterrent to mass adoption.

Meanwhile, Juniper observed that with many Bitcoins being hoarded by early speculators, currency supply could be further restricted with Bitcoin mining profitability threatened by a combination of the cryptocurrency’s volatility, lower Bitcoin yields and rising electricity costs.

Other findings from the market study include:
  • The introduction of licensed, regulated exchanges could lead to a stabilisation in currency values and with it an increase in retail transaction adoption.
  • The protocols behind cryptocurrency could be deployed in areas such as real-time transactional settlement.
  • The altcoin market continues to be plagued by “pump and dump” currencies created solely as short-term investment vehicles.

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