Will new digital currency Bitcoin benefit e-commerce?

By Philip Rooke, CEO of Spreadshirt, the leading e-commerce platform that lets anyone create, sell and buy ideas on things consumers love to wear, use, and carry. 

The arrival of Bitcoin has in some circles, been hailed as a solution for having a global currency. It works as a peer-to-peer distribution system where people are able to send money worldwide almost instantly for very low transaction fees. It’s nationless and revolutionary.

But how will it work for e-commerce retailers? Is Bitcoin an easy solution for an e-commerce business, giving them a global currency, rather than having to cater for many different currencies? Or does it, at the moment, ask more questions than it solves? Is Bitcoin really a relevant concept for the average online customer?

Right now, certainly with Spreadshirt (the online business I head) we’re not seeing any consumer-led demand for this currency. None of our thousands of customers or shop-partners has requested to pay or be paid in Bitcoin. Consumers already have their national currency and methods such as credit, debit cards and PayPal, (around 10% of payments to Spreadshirt use PayPal). If you already have widely accepted and recognised currencies, there isn’t a pressing need for another, and retailers are most likely to respond to consumer demand, rather than impose one payment method on their customers. Only when the consumer has a compelling reason to use Bitcoin, is the retailer likely to adopt it.



As the CEO of an e-commerce company, my opinion about Bitcoin is that we just aren’t ready for it yet, and may never be. This may dismay some of the proponents of the digital currency, but let’s consider some of the main issues:

1) Zero % fraud?

This is a retailer problem not a consumer one. Most credit cards offer fraud protection to consumers. The cost is covered by the transactor and retailer. Retailers cannot force consumers to use payment to suit their needs. And what’s more recent news stories highlight that as the digital currency becomes more popular, it is also becoming an attractive target for cybercriminals.

2) Lower costs?

Few retailers offer lower costs to non credit card payers. In fact, many are not allowed under their payment contracts. Other than tickets for events and travel it is rare to incur extra charges for credit cards and most consumers have debit cards.

3) Speed of transaction?

If you are transferring large enough amounts and the transaction takes over 24-hours, then yes this may be of interest. But this has only happened twice in my life when I was buying or selling a company, and simple methods exist to deal with it, this is not a mass-market concern.

But I’m going to be open-minded. I believe that businesses do need to think ahead and future-proof their practices if they want to succeed. My job is to try and cover as many of our customers’ needs as possible, so if someday enough people tell me they want to use Bitcoin, then we will adapt and find ways of taking Bitcoin payments!

Follow Philip Rooke on Twitter @PhilipRooke