April showers bring May flowers. And for online floral retailers, May flowers mean Mother’s Day, one of the biggest sales events of the year.
Like a fine Swiss watchmaker, floral retailers determine shipping prices, and precisely when orders need to occur to ensure on-time arrival to surprise and delight that special mom in their life.
Now, imagine if our favorite floral retailer could deliver a partial refund on flowers that arrive after the expected delivery date. Grandma’s gardenias arrive on Mon., May 14, and the customer automatically gets $10 back. With a blockchain-enabled transaction, an account can be instantly credited the moment the delivery time changes beyond its expected date. The customer receives a push notification on their phone about the automated justice and credited funds.
In a test of blockchain capability, Walmart determined that using a blockchain to trace the origin farm of spoiled mangoes required only 2.2 seconds. In comparison, traditional tracking methods took almost seven days. This represents the power of the blockchain and why it's transforming retail.
Just to step back for a moment, the blockchain is an agreement network that makes it secure and extremely efficient to track product information from manufacturing all the way to the customer’s hands.
With the number of goods passing hands across the supply chain at the increasing pace required to deliver just-in-time solutions, automation and process speed is vital to future operations. Services like Amazon Prime are now setting the bar for delivery and service — the only way to achieve this is with new ways of managing fulfillment.
Enter Ethereum and the Blockchain
Ethereum is a type of distributed application that automates a network of agreements. Think about peer-to-peer file sharing, where users’ computers around the world are collaborating on sending files to each other. A blockchain is for connecting moments of trust and agreement. Each party’s systems automatically collaborate on a block of code that verifies product information at each step along the chain.
Tracking goods between multiple parties can be very difficult, especially when there are multiple records of events held by each party. Today, if one party loses a good along the fulfillment chain, it’s not known to the other parties, and the cost and time required for reconciliation can cause great pain to a number of collaborators.
When a good is manufactured, it can have a corresponding object on the Ethereum blockchain. As the good moves through warehousing and distribution points, new information is added to the blockchain object with each party in the mix having access to the information. The blockchain computes the changes automatically with each movement, and a collective record of the good is always in place.
Today, this process is often handled using mountains of paper and disconnected records that don't talk to each other and require large amounts of labor and time to process. Blockchain automates the data record and keeps it secure from A to Z. This is why some are calling it a perfect technology.
Blockchain for retail will allow for the following:
- Recording asset quantity and transfer — e.g., packages, pallets, containers, etc. — as they move between distribution points.
- Tracking goods and documents, including purchase orders, change orders, receipts, shipment notifications.
- Verification of authenticity or certification.
- Linking physical goods to serial numbers, including product IDs, barcodes, SKUs and RFID tags.
- Sharing information about manufacturing process, assembly, delivery, and maintenance of products with suppliers and vendors.
Whether the business is flowers or fridges, shipping from Paris, France or Paris, Texas, the time is now to revitalize supply and fulfillment chain operations and transform retail processes.
James Basnett is the blockchain practice lead at Softvision, a provider of information technology services and solutions for retailers.
Related story: 5 Ways Blockchain is Changing E-Commerce