Retailers turn to blockchain to build customer trust

by Michael Mowat Supply Chain Director for Consumer Markets, PwC United Kingdom

Every product has a story, and as consumers we increasingly want to know what it is. Whether we are lovers of luxury clothes, loyal to a particular coffee, or committed to sustainability, many of us want to know exactly what we are buying. We want to know how and where it was produced and that everyone involved in producing it was treated fairly.

It is this growing demand for companies to communicate their products’ origin and impact that PwC economists say will become the biggest driver behind the widespread adoption of blockchain technology. Using blockchain to prove the ‘provenance’ of products is expected to contribute $962bn to the global economy over the next decade.

In a new report, Time for Trust: The trillion dollar reason to rethink blockchain, PwC economists have assessed how blockchain technology is currently being used across every industry. They claim the technology is on track to deliver a $1.76trn boost to global gross domestic product (GDP) by 2030, and that the majority of businesses will be using blockchain technology from 2025.

As the report explains, blockchain can help organisations verify the source of their goods and track their movement at every step, not only providing proof of provenance but strengthening transparency in any supply chain. Fraud, contaminations or counterfeits can be pinpointed immediately, ensuring customer safety and enhancing efforts to be socially and ethically responsible.

Retailers are already using this effectively. For example, a leading UK grocery chain has built a ‘source to shelf’ solution which tracks the journey of fresh produce and verifies its integrity. Every partner in the chain gets a digital passport, tracking the condition and location of the product at any time, and finally, shoppers using interactive labels can see the journey for themselves.

Meanwhile, a global consumer goods company has developed a solution for its tea supply chain - where farming data is made available, registering social impact and sustainability credentials. The blockchain also uses the provenance and traceability information to accelerate payment to the farmers.

For companies to be able to offer this kind of transparency, to demonstrate how they are living their values and performing against their wider stakeholder responsibilities, is one of the biggest advantages of blockchain technology. Being able to engage in that conversation, to prove it to customers, business partners and shareholders alike, is hugely powerful.

If you’re interested in getting started with blockchain, it’s important to be clear on where you might benefit from verifying data. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced every organisation to review its supply chains - so while it’s front of mind, it’s worth thinking about where blockchain could bring value in your business.

Read Time for Trust to find out more about how blockchain is being used right now, and which industries and countries are set to reap the biggest rewards from the technology.

To find out more about how blockchain can create value for your organisation, get in touch.

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by Michael Mowat Supply Chain Director for Consumer Markets, PwC United Kingdom

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