Since the introduction of Bitcoin, technologies and services have gradually improved the ease of acquisition and use of cryptocurrency. Currently, purchasing crypto has never been easier, and thousands of businesses accept it for payment. Moving cryptocurrency into the mainstream will require a continuation of this trend. A number of companies are quietly making crypto more user-friendly by developing point-of-sale systems (POS) that will make spending it as easy as using any other modern form of payment.
The earliest POS services focused primarily on enabling businesses to accept Bitcoin, and many still do. These include Bitpay, Paystand, and XBTerminal. However, the POS market has been advancing quickly, and as altcoins have risen in popularity, so too have services focused on enabling merchants to accept them. Blockpay, for example, is moving very quickly into the retail space. Its platform enables merchants to accept multiple cryptocurrencies, converting them into fiat for transfer to the merchant. Blockpay is currently most active in Europe and Latin America, but is growing rapidly in other markets. Other companies offering similar services include Coingate and POSaBit.
Many of these next-gen services include other features, such as the ability to run customer analytics, provide electronic receipts, and offer rewards programs. The more advanced platforms also enable merchants to integrate fiat payments systems, such as credit cards, with the acceptance of crypto. Most also avoid the use of dedicated hardware. Rather, they are designed to be used with a computer or smartphone, and many are app-based.
These newer, multi-crypto services are a reflection of the diversity that is overtaking the crypto space. Bitcoin remains the flagship cryptocurrency, but newer competitors are gaining popularity. Dash and Monero, for example, offer much faster confirmation times and greater anonymity. Both have development teams that are aggressively seeking to enter the POS market, and are easily integrated into systems that also accept Bitcoin.
Moving forward, merchants and consumers will almost certainly prefer cryptos that are best suited for high volume, low value transactions. A cryptocurrency that becomes a mainstream payment method would need the ability to confirm hundreds, if not thousands, of transactions per second. Many altcoins have this capability, but Bitcoin, in its original iteration, could only handle a maximum of seven. The implementation of Segregated Witness, and soon the Lightning Network, should increase this number substantially. Other cryptos with low transaction capabilities, such as Ethereum, are also being upgraded.
Network fees will likely be another key factor in moving cryptocurrencies into mainstream use. Cryptos already have transaction fees that are far lower than credit and debit cards, which is a major incentive for merchants to encourage their use. However, because network fees can vary widely, along with cryptocurrency values, choosing the lowest at any given time is problematic. An advantage of a multi-crypto POS platform is the ability for consumers to choose the crypto with the lowest fee at the time of purchase. A platform could even be configured to make the choice automatically.
For cryptocurrency to become truly mainstream, it must be considered more than a mere store of value, or reserve currency. Consumers must spend it, as they do fiat, on day-to-day purchases. Point-of-sale services are thus a key component of the crypto movement. Companies behind these platforms are confident that they can offer a superior purchasing experience at a much lower price. It is thus likely that soon crypto POS options will become as commonplace as other payment options.