Scarcely an hour goes by without another blockchain or cryptocurrency headline.
I confess to dabbling a token amount in crypto several years ago and after this year’s surge in prices, I’ve found myself paying even closer attention.
In essence blockchain is a large, virtual ledger, where all participants have access to all data simultaneously. Encrypted, in principle it means there’s the highest level of transparency; speed is another advantage.
Whilst there are potentially many blockchain uses for consumer goods companies, adoption rates are still low.
Probably the area getting greatest attention is supply chain and food security, especially for farm produce. Significantly the push to adopt isn’t coming from food companies, nor consumers, rather retailers. Or should I say a few retailers.
Last year Walmart wrote to all its suppliers urging them to use blockchain for farmed produce. It’s a collaborative initiative with IBM’s ‘Food Trust’.
Another retailer pushing blockchain is China’s JD.com. It has over 14,000 products on its block chain, including sea cucumbers, a regional delicacy.
Industry associations and cooperatives are also experimenting with blockchain. Meat & Livestock Australia for example will use blockchain to validate product claims and provenance for China exports.
Unilever is said to be looking at how blockchain can improve its digital media spend. Whilst digital media has the impression of being more targeted and focused, there are lots of hidden components. For example fees paid to an agency, an ad exchange and data monitoring. Then there’s the problem of click fraud. No surprise that Unilever’s chief marketing officer described it as a ‘swamp.’ A significant share of spend is taken by middle men.
One of blockchain’s greatest benefits, transparency, is also its curse. What if your competitors can also see your data?
In some countries consortiums have been established with the objective of establishing protocols and standards amongst leading consumer goods firms. However this is not widespread. Avoiding accusations of monopolistic behaviour is the legal department’s greatest nightmare.
If you’re in consumer goods the immediate priority is stay close to where the big retail customers are heading. If you want to be proactive, start thinking of upgrading your sales team’s blockchain and digital supply chain capabilities.