An Australian company is about to put your beer on the blockchain
Originally posted by Andrew Munro @ finder.com.au
Big news for anyone with any kind of dietary restrictions whatsoever.
Shping wants to put beer on the blockchain, albeit only in the context of wanting to put all consumer goods on the blockchain.
Beer might be one of the earlier additions though. Shping recently inked a deal with 123 Holdings, a distributor of beer brands including Asahi, Carlsberg, Heineken, Hoegaarden, Stella Artois, Tiger, Corona and many more throughout the Asia Pacific region, so that next time you grab a beverage – depending on how long there is between the time you read this and the time you grab a beer – there's a reasonable chance that the bottle you're holding will be on the blockchain. Depending on where you bought it.
But still, that's pretty exciting.
The Shping blockchain
Shping (pronounced shping) is an Australian firm that aims to put, in the words of Shping founder Gennady Volchek, "anything with a barcode" on the blockchain. The idea is to create a win-win-win system for brands, the stores that carry the brand's products and anyone who buys those products.
Brands: More consumer engagement and ways of meeting and speaking directly to shoppers.
Stores: Better supply chain tracking and more engaged shoppers.
Shoppers: Direct cryptocurrency rewards for engaging with items and better information.
There are a lot of ways for everyone to benefit, Volchek says. It's as easy as scanning barcodes with your phone while shopping.
One example is automatically alerting users if something they've purchased has been subject to a product recall. Or you could create tamper-proof blockchain food expiry dates to prevent a store from slapping a new sticker over the old one. There could be a verifiable list of ingredients that can be tied right back to the manufacturer, health rating information that can be tied to the governing body or certifications that can be immediately looked up for what exactly they mean.
These might not be front-of-mind for most people, but anyone with allergies or any other dietary needs, or anyone who's ever spent several minutes standing in the aisle of a supermarket trying to decipher a food item's ingredients list, stands to get a better system almost immediately.
For example, how many of the previously mentioned beers do you suppose are gluten free? A quick Google search only shows how hard it is to find a reliable answer to that question, how much conflicting information there is on the wild web and how maddening it would be for someone with coeliac disease to gamble their health on finding a trustworthy answer to that question while shopping. And remember, the same product in different countries will often use different ingredients so you really can't believe everything you read.
Shping wants to instantly deliver a reliable answer to these kinds of questions straight to the palm of your hand, for any product you see on the shelf. And potentially even pay you a small amount while you do so.
Brands have every reason to want that as well, as do other stakeholders. It could save a lot of time and money. There's a huge amount of money being poured into ineffective labels and systems that fall over at the consumer education phase. The Australian government's health star initiative, for example, ran into problems with the fact that its slogan was "more stars is healthier" even though more stars wasn't actually always healthier. The misunderstanding was because the real explanation doesn't really fit into a single slogan.
Volchek also wants to end the scourge of excessive yet meaningless labels and certifications, which he describes as becoming something of a pain point. Any business can buy any number of wonderfully official-looking stickers and labels for its products, but in many cases, there's no actual meaning behind them.
The effect is to drown out the legitimate and useful labels, while forcing more genuine brands to spend a fortune on meaningless labels just to keep up with the less-genuine competition.
Pure, unmitigated product information (and a little bit of advertising) at one's fingertips while shopping solves a number of important problems.
The global nature of most of the popular big brands, and the differences found in the same products in different markets, means that Shping needs to think big.
"Nowadays, the common practice is most brands spread globally," Volchek says. "We focus on all international brands. It's very important for Shping to be a global player."
So far the global rollout has seen Shping offices in Australia, Russia, China and Singapore, with the Shping app being downloadable and its data useable everywhere else.
"Where we don't have a physical presence, our data is being spread globally," Volchek affirms.
And Shping is a blockchain company, by necessity of needing to ensure that all the data in the system is tamper-proof and to better unlock the benefits cryptocurrency.
This comes with some additional hurdles in the form of people's general wariness of cryptocurrency and the perception of it as unfamiliar and exotic technology, Volchek says. But there are solutions, and overall, the opportunities probably far outweigh the downsides.
A built-in wallet and exchange system, for example, can help overcome unfamiliarity and wariness.
"One of the big areas where we think there is massive potential, which we think is coming very soon, is being able to cash out points right from the app, as we know cryptocurrency is still quite challenging for a lot of people, especially those who are not technically savvy... They want to sell their crypto and want to do it into Australian dollars."
Its core function, though, might be a way of encouraging customer engagement.
"Brands are able to reward consumers for different types of actions," he says. "Writing reviews is only one of them. [There are also] all the promotions that brands publish in relation to products, for example, if there was a video that a brand had published – if consumers watch the video they can earn rewards."
"The system is designed to allow brands to provide dynamic content. Every time you scan a brand you can see fresh content. It allows brands to provide dynamic content that takes you on a journey and gives you small amounts of tokens."
The idea might sound thoroughly consumeristic, and it's probably not for everyone, but the digital age has quite clearly shown that a lot of people genuinely love following their favourite brands, leaving upbeat reviews and generally being highly-engaged consumers, even without rewards to sweeten the deal. Beyond the practical value that Shping as an app can deliver to customers in-store, there also seem to be some clear marketing benefits.
Volchek also reckons that the volatility of cryptocurrency might add a bit more excitement to the whole Shping experience.
"It can be very rewarding if the coin goes up," he says.
Businesses don't have to face the same unpredictability though. They have the choice of denominating their consumer rewards as desired. For example, they might choose to set the reward for a review at either 10 cents or 100 Shping tokens – whichever suits their budgeting better.
Cryptocurrency is also just plain better than brand-specific rewards, Volchek points out, because it doesn't go off and its value isn't entirely dependent on the longevity of any one specific brand, and the value can't be yanked away by a change of terms and conditions or a promotion expiry date.
"The best thing about crypto is that it never expires," Volchek said. "So basically your coins are not linked to any one organisation... It's not subject to changes of terms and conditions of the organisation or not being able to exchange for one product if a company goes out of business."
Brands and brand loyalty might come and go, but Shping sees itself being there for the long haul.
Disclosure: At the time of writing the author holds ETH, IOTA, ICX, VET, XLM, BTC, ADA
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