Why Blockchain is the Missing Piece in Retail

Consumers provide more value to the retail industry than simply the dollars they spend. Many shoppers aren’t aware of the mass amounts of personal information retailers are collecting about — and profiting from — all of us every day. If you shop at a major retailer often, they likely know your age range, style preferences, location, and more. Some shoppers brush this off as a way for companies to more effectively market products. Recently, the Daily Mail revealed how brick-and-mortar stores are using laser and motion sensors to track where customers are walking, and what products they physically gravitate to. More disturbingly, many retailers are starting to adopt facial recognition on a grand scale — including Walmart — and using consumers’ personal biometric data to inform their sales strategies. And that’s just a glimpse at what’s happening in-store.

Online, all our actions are tracked, analyzed, centralized, and monetized in order to extract maximum value from every customer’s every movement across the web. The accumulation and monopolization of this data in search, social, and ecommerce is exactly what’s made Google, Facebook, and Amazon some of the most valuable — and unbelievably powerful — companies on the planet.

Sure, there’s some advantages to customers in having their personal behavior and shopping patterns tracked in the form of better targeting by retailers (ie: getting products we actually want in front of us at cheap prices), but now that the center of modern commerce has shifted to massive online data centralizing marketplaces like Amazon, Walmart, and Alibaba, we’ve seen Brands brought to their collective knees as the power to understand and better serve their customers has been hijacked on a grand scale. Even worse, because they have the most understanding of Brands and Shoppers, these marketplaces are using this data to actively copy their best-performing Brands with their own in-store lines, and promoting them more heavily to shoppers.

To help return the balance of power to Brands & Shoppers and protect the longevity of the Brands we love, we created EVERY*, the first cryptocurrency purpose-built for shopping and an accompanying blockchain-based protocol that empowers developers to create new decentralized retail experiences. Now, for the first time — via the EVERY* Wallet & Token — Shoppers are able to recapture and control their personal data and barter it in exchange for discounts from Brands as a native aspect of the shopping experience. Shoppers win when Brands understand what they love and are able to serve them with more meaningful, personalized retail experiences, and greater savings.

Our goal is to establish a thriving community of Brands and Shoppers that, for the first time, have complete control over the fair exchange of data and savings on their own terms. It’s difficult for one person to effect change in a huge industry, especially with such powerful forces in control, but hopefully, together, we can pave the way to the decentralized future of retail.

Originally published at medium.com on March 17, 2018.

Why A Co-op?

We’ve architected EVERY’s Shopper Cooperative as an entity that reflects the nature of Blockchain, personal data ownership, and participatory governance and reward.

It makes a ton of sense for us to think of ourselves as a member of one ecosystem. If we want to make data available for new kinds of value exchanges, fair approaches to margin and prices, and more opportunity to drive innovation within that ecosystem, participants must be aligned in a new and unique way. Part of the benefit of the emerging technology of blockchain, cryptoeconomics and data tokenization will be to provide a new alignment that the system has never seen before. That doesn’t make sense for us to stuff into a traditional corporation. It makes more sense that that would be birthed out of a co-op — an entity that’s designed to operate for the benefit of all its members. A standard oriented around participants seeing dividends is such a natural fit for our approach.

The co-op model will allow for interesting governance structures by bringing existing data and historical insights from members into the fold. Our team and our capacity to recreate some of the efficiencies at the scale that Amazon has produced doesn’t exist; that’s not inside of our walls. But the insights, motivations, and economic backgrounds of brands and shoppers do surpass the capabilities of an Amazon. As a co-op, we will pool that insight and participation within its framework by creating the right incentive structures and governance workflows. By leveraging that engagement, our native EVERY Token will be able to facilitate mutually beneficiary value exchanges between Co-op Members to direct the roadmap, technology, and business decisions that allow for brands to drive new revenue and shoppers to have great eCommerce experiences.

One of the things that always geeks us out is when we can take the physical world and map it into bits; the Co-op will be the most authentic way of managing a physical real-world structure of people and companies against something decentralized like a blockchain. It’s this manifestation of deliberately not creating a trusted centralized authority to manage the governance structure, how parties interact with each other, or how disputes are remediated. Another thing truly fun and perfect about this fit is most of these governance rules will actually be coded into how the co-op is structured at a software level. While we are bootstrapping and leading a lot of this, it doesn’t give us that undo control over how these entities are going to interact the same way that Vitalik doesn’t have control over how smart contracts are executed on Ethereum. We will be trusting the network to manage itself. It’s such a great synergy between those to concepts.

By operating as a co-op on top of an open-sourced protocol, we will be able to stand up and make a promise to the ecosystem that we’re not another retailer, we’re not another eComm platform, we’re not another centralizing authority that’s going to trick them into consuming all their value while working against alternative motives and agendas. It’s frankly the only model that will maintain that open sourced framework and allow for the community to drive the direction and vision for the Co-op.

This technology is new. The value exchanges and the alignment is new. When a brand says, “Wait a minute, why do I have so much margin to work with? Why am I not giving up ten, fifteen, twenty percent of the transaction to the marketplace as a whole?” When consumers say, “Why do I have so much control over my own information?” It’s an easy answer that they can understand — that this is a co-op and we’re here for you. And you will get to participate in that. It’ll lend itself to adoption.

This is a whole new world. None of us are egotistical enough to try and claim that we know how it’s going to play out over the next twelve, eighteen, twenty-four months. (Ten, fifteen years! However long it is.) We don’t know what they will do with that excess margin and how it will impact the interactions that occur between members of the ecosystem. They will do things that we never thought of before. We will enable all of those great experiences technically but the structure of the organization needs to evolve too to match those changes. By giving that power to all the Co-op Members, we won’t have to worry about how it’s going to happen. We don’t need to foresee innovation — we can let it occur and play out naturally.

Originally published at medium.com on February 7, 2018.