What's Next? 3 Ways Blockchain Will Shape Retail in 2020

How blockchain will impact the retail industry in the following three ways this year.

Considerable progress has been made in blockchain adoption in retail in the past year. Walmart announced a pilot to track imported shrimp destined for select Sam’s Club stores. Target's even actively hiring blockchain engineers.

We can fully expect adoption to continue rising. In Deloitte’s 2019 Global Blockchain Survey, an astounding 86% of surveyed senior executives reported that they foresee blockchain achieving mainstream adoption — with 53% citing it as one of their top five priorities.

Where does this leave us in 2020? Well, we’re only beginning to scratch the surface of the technology’s capabilities.

I predict blockchain will impact the retail industry in the following three ways this year.

1. Alignment with corporate missions

The modern shopper is increasingly conscious about their buying decisions. They want products that are eco-friendly, cruelty-free and free of slave labor, among other ethical considerations. 

More retailers will be deploying blockchain as a means of upholding commitments to ethical business practices. Blockchain offers an immutable, decentralized ledger of a product’s entire history. This gives companies full transparency into their supply chains so they can confirm that their goods are conflict-free and pass that confidence on to customers. It’s beneficial to the business and the global good.

2. Simpler omnichannel retailing

2019 has been an innovative year with an inspiring variety of retail channels. Instagram introduced a new Checkout feature. Grocery e-commerce has continued to grow. On the brick-and-mortar side, pop-up shops have been widely popular for everyone from Louis Vuitton to Patagonia.

As retailers add these channels, they’ll need to tie everything together in one, cohesive omnichannel model. Blockchain can make this happen by enabling the real-time flow of records logged and shared by each link in the supply chain. 

This means products bought through social media can be picked up in store. Online orders can be returned to a pop-up shop. And decision-makers upstream can think holistically about things like production, buying decisions, demand forecasts, channel allocation and last-mile delivery.

3. Blockchain meets AI

One factor that will drive blockchain adoption is the availability of blockchain-as-a-service (BaaS) platforms that eliminate complex, expensive, custom pilots and replace them with streamlined affordable, out-of-the-box solutions. Through BaaS, a retailer only needs an internet browser to start bringing a distributed ledger live, making the technology deployable across global supply chains.

Pratik Soni
Pratik Soni

The next step beyond adoption? We’ll see blockchain converge with other transformative technologies like AI and machine learning. AI will be able to process vast amounts of supply chain data connected on the distributed ledger — at far greater speeds and scales than humanly possible — and deliver timely actionable insights to key decision-makers, e.g., opportunities to reduce costs, speed up delivery or seize demand. The result is cognitive supply chain management with augmented intelligence based on real-time, real-world data.

Perhaps the biggest trend is that we’re moving past the hype. Blockchain is becoming less of a buzzword and more of tangible reality. It’s a ready and mature solution for retailers in 2020 and years ahead. 

Pratik Soni is CEO ofOmnichain.