The rising prevalence of cryptocurrency has many of us wondering when the era of crypto payments will truly be upon us. As much as 17% of the U.S adult population owns Bitcoin, while only a small fraction of us can boast of having reached for their cryptocurrency wallet when making a purchase. Most of those who hold cryptocurrency treat it as an investment rather than a medium of exchange. The reason for this is that cryptocurrencies are lousy to transact in. They lack the two major attributes that make fiat currency attractive for commerce: price stability and wide acceptance in society.
The acceptance issue may have a solution in the form of cryptocurrency gateways, a special class of processors that enable crypto acceptance among merchants. Among these are companies like Bitpay, NOWPayments, and CoinPayments, which have seen growing adoption among merchants in recent years. Many gateways offer the option to integrate with a merchant’s e-commerce website, allowing for a seamless transaction process both for the customer and the merchant.
Gateways can be split into two categories based on whether the merchant holds the private key to their wallet: custodial and non-custodial. Custodial gateways maintain the users’ private key and control access to their funds, while users of non-custodial gateways keep their own private key and can access their funds directly. Merchants choose the type of gateway based on their priorities regarding security, privacy, and convenience. Custodial gateways are known to be more convenient for less sophisticated users while offering less privacy and user autonomy than non-custodial gateways.
Several leading companies have taken advantage of these solutions to enable cryptocurrency acceptance, including Microsoft, Etsy, and Shopify. According to Mercator’s 2021 Small Business Insights Survey, 17% of medium-sized and small businesses that don’t already accept cryptocurrency are preparing to start doing so in the next 12 months. The increasing popularity of stablecoins and the potential introduction of central bank-issued digital currencies can make transacting in crypto less risky and is likely to drive further merchant adoption.
Many industry observers have described the ascent of cryptocurrency and its diffusion into the mainstream as a trend that will revolutionize the financial industry. This may be true, but the revolution will not occur until cryptocurrencies gain mainstream merchant adoption. Cryptocurrency gateways are key to making this happen, as they are the integral technical component that connects merchants to their customers. The development of cryptocurrency gateways will in many ways shape the nature of cryptocurrency as a medium of exchange, as it will define the customer and merchant experience.
Cryptocurrency adoption could pose a large threat to traditional payment industry players, as well as merchants that refuse to adapt. This leaves legacy payment services providers with the imperative to take proactive steps to research the subject and gear up to offer solutions for the ever-evolving 21st-century marketplace. More on payment gateways can be found in this article published by infuencive.com.
Overview by Sam Klebanov, Research Analyst at Mercator Advisory Group