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Bitcoin to Enter Customer Loyalty Arena?

Brad Ball, president, CEO, and co-founder of LoyaltyMatch, told Loyalty 360 that his company wanted to envision what was “coming down the pike.” As a result, LoyaltyMatch recently announced the launch of the first loyalty management and gamification platform for merchants who accept Bitcoins for payment.

LoyaltyMatch, a global leader in loyalty, gamification, and social loyalty technologies, launched the first loyalty management and gamification platform for Bitcoin merchants powered by Loyalty On Demand for merchants who accept Bitcoins for payment.

Not familiar with Bitcoin? It is a distributed peer-to-peer digital currency that functions without the intermediation of any central authority. It’s also known as a cryptocurrency since it uses cryptography to prevent double spending.

“It comes down to trying to figure out what’s coming down the pike,” Ball said. “We’ve been looking at it for two years, trying to figure out what will stick and get traction. We’ve been tracking them and, at the end of the day, we were intrigued by them.”

The LoyaltyMatch OnDemand loyalty platform encourages Bitcoin commerce via ecommerce, social commerce, or POS systems. It also promotes consumer engagement with merchants by offering loyalty points for social interactions via Tweets and Pinterest, Instagram or Facebook posts, check-ins, mobile downloads, or referrals.

Bitcoin is an innovative payment network and a new kind of money that uses peer-to-peer technology to operate with no central authority or banks.  The management of transactions and the issuing of Bitcoins are carried out collectively by the network. Bitcoin is open-source. Its design is public. No one owns or controls Bitcoin and anyone can take part.

One advantage for merchants using Bitcoin includes lower transaction fees than credit cards.

“It’s a valid currency and will be given a currency symbol,” Ball explained. “It’s becoming validated. BitPay just passed 40,000 merchants. We’ve seen the traction. China has opened up. It’s a leading edge currency, slowly becoming mainstream. There is stickiness around it. We’ve always believed there’s an opportunity.”

Bitcoin payment processor startup BitPay takes payments via the decentralized digital cryptocurrency. 

“It’s a fully functional product,” Ball said. “We don’t have a Bitcoin client yet. We wanted to dangle our toe in the water and move forward on it. Hopefully, we’ll pull some clients by the end of the year.”

Ball said Bitcoin is an anomaly because it’s not tied to a country.

“Virtual currencies aren’t a thing of the past,” Ball said. “I think they’re a thing of the future. There’s something there. Is it going to be the next big thing? I can’t say whether it will or not. We put our toe in the water to see if something happens from a loyalty perspective. It’s another currency. In my world I see it as another commerce transaction and how do you want to reward around it? We think there are other opportunities with partners and potential plays.”

At the end of the day, is it going to be regulated? That’s a big question.

“Germany and China are looking at some form of regulation,” Ball said. “Those two countries have put their blessing on it. It’s a currency being traded. You can use it to buy and sell goods.”

According to a published report, what’s believed to be the first Bitcoin ATM in the world will go live this week in Vancouver, operated by Nevada-based Robocoin and Vancouver's Bitcoiniacs.

The new ATM will trade Canadian dollars for online Bitcoins, according to the report. Users are required to do a palm scan and are permitted to exchange up to $3,000 per a day.

Canadian cash is exchanged on Canada’s VirtEx exchange for Bitcoins, which are then entered in an online bitcoin wallet.

Bitcoins currently trade for close to $200, but have swung widely in value from $13 to $250 in the past year. Until now, most have been traded person-to-person in individual transactions or through various unregulated exchanges that exist mostly online.

While some have doubted Bitcoin’s validity and others have raised concerns that the unregulated currency is being used for nefarious means – according to the published report -- a U.S. judge ruled last month that Bitcoin, which has been around since 2009, is a real currency.

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