12/02/2019 | blockchain,data,GDPR,database management,privacy,technology,

The Building Blocks of the next phase of digital transformation

Remember how you struggled to understand what the internet was? Or more importantly, how its existence was going to impact upon your life? Now on those occasions where we are denied access to it, some of us apparently struggle to even navigate our way to work. In other words what had once seemed an impenetrable concept has now become de rigueur in our daily lives.

Now there is another new kid in town. Blockchain. And once more with blockchain comes a sea of puzzled faces as people try to bend their heads around what it is. And does it really impact on me anyway?

Data is fundamentally at the heart of what MRM does. Without it we can’t identify what stock we are holding or where it is located. Without it we don’t know who we are sending the stock on to. And without it we can’t correctly allocate the millions of Pounds and Euros of recompense, cashback and reward that our digitally-driven promotional campaigns create. But databases are vulnerable. Because of the nature of the invaluable personal and financial information our databases tend to contain, they are open to corruption and inconsistency. And that is a great point to start to realise the true value that blockchain represents to a business like ourselves.

In simple terms, a blockchain is a network that hosts a shared distributed ledger or database. Because it holds data that is shared across its network of nodes, a blockchain offers greater integrity, availability and transparency; once data is written in to a blockchain it cannot be rewritten or deleted and so provides an immutable audit trail. The cryptographic algorithms that are applied when adding content authenticate entries through a mechanism known as consensus, such that a blockchain can only be updated if multiple peers within the network agree that each transaction is valid.

To date of course, this technology has been fundamentally aligned with crypto currencies. But the application of this technology goes potentially beyond financial; particularly given the secure, transparent and auditable model that it represents. Think of its value in being applied to copyright and intellectual property protection. Or imagine being able to scan food in a supermarket to truly establish its provenance, time to market, full ingredients, promotional offers. In recruitment the ability to truly verify the work experience claimed on a CV goes way beyond current social media platforms.

For MRM, work has already begun on exploring how we can create blockchains of our own to enhance the systems we need to support payment systems and promotional mechanics. Many promotions require proof of purchase – till receipts, codes – for the purposes of validation. Although we currently utilise adapted software to automatically scan receipts, manual verification is still required to try and identify potential fraudulent activity. Blockchain could provide a permanent record of a product’s history through the supply chain. Each product would require a unique identifier (or GTIN) that related to product description that could be recorded as an asset on the blockchain. Each movement – including sale – can then be recorded onto the chain. By linking purchaser details with asset ID, the information can be used for the recording of warranty details, conducting recalls, fulfilling promotional rewards – all providing the brand owner with deeper levels of consumer engagement. And where proof of purchase is required, the asset ID will provide verification of the type of product (important where the promotion may require qualifying product types), the date and time of purchase (again, to match to the set promotional period), where the sale was made and which retailer it was made through. And once verified, the reward could be gift or points linked to a cryptocurrency token.

Blockchain should also enhance the consideration of coupons as a frontline promotional mechanic. Personalised coupons can increasingly be validated through epos, reducing the burden on tier one retailers to clear them. And with validation against actual shopping basket purchases effectively eradicates malredemption, blockchain offers us the ability to further track personalised coupons featuring unique PINs and standard barcodes. By recording the issue of coupons on a blockchain, EPOS validates each coupon being redeemed and validates on the blockchain to allow retailer reimbursement. Coupons are immutably recorded for audit and manufacturers can determine where and when coupons have been redeemed and which customers have used them.

Its very versatility demonstrates that blockchain will develop extensively over the coming years. And for organisations like ourselves, the ability to challenge and deliver against current flawed processes will help us and our clients continue to embrace positive digital change.

If you would like to hear more about how Blockchain technology can improve your brand activity, why not give Marc Rigby at MRM a call – 01858 410510 or drop him an email at marc.rigby@mrm.co.uk

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