FlashBoys, in Holland, has been working on a number of initiatives using Blockchain technology to help the retail sector in an effort to reduce fraud and improve transparency in supply chains.

One of the projects that it has developed is to use Near Field Communication (NFC) chips, and have these placed on bottles of wine or within items of clothes. An advantage of NFC chips is that no special equipment is required to read them, just a smartphone, and a product’s provenance can be held on the chip as well as other details, helping to tackle the sale of counterfeit goods.

Indeed, Flashboys is currently in discussions with Luxottica, the world biggest eyewear  manufacturer, to have an NFC chip inserted into a pair of sunglasses. Once the chip is in the sunglasses, it could create a unique token which could have information about the owner stored on a Blockchain. This would hopefully reduce the sale of second-hand sunglasses, as the new owner could easily scan them to see if they have been reported as lost/stolen. Ideas such as these are also being explored by fashion retailers, as they struggle to drive sales to their ‘bricks and mortar shops’ and find ways to differentiate themselves from online sales. One way would be to insert an NFC chip into items of clothes that are only sold in-store and say to customers “if you buy from one of our shops, you will get a discount of another purchase, or you will be able to see who and how your garment has been made”. By using an NFC chip, customers could use their mobile phones and retrieve discounts, and/or access to various different types of information. This could help retailers to encourage customers to use their physical shops more.

Meanwhile, American Express is looking at how it can use Blockchain technology to upgrade the many different loyalty programs it offers. Qiibee, founded in 2015 and based in Switzerland, also believes that Blockchain is a technology ideal for the loyalty industry as it offers brand owners more options and ways in which they can engage with customers, and hence offer them better value and information. Qiibee is trying to address the challenge such as when customers shop with a brand they like, they are rewarded with the branded token, ending up collecting numerous different tokens. These, in turn, are a hassle to use. However, by using the Qiibee platform, they can exchange the tokens they need from someone who requires the tokens they themselves have i.e. swap tokens!

So, it would appear that the retail sector is embracing Blockchain technology in a variety of ways, but I suspect, as this industry had greater adoption, more ways will be found to harness it still further for both on and off-line retailers.