A Brief Guide to Everything ‘Coin’ in eCommerce and Grocery Retail

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Here, we explore various programs offered by major eComms and grocery retailers. Starting with those that are closest to having their own “coins” or virtual currencies, we discuss how old-line retailers adapt their mobile experiences and review startups that are carving out their slice of the pie.

eCommerce giants are almost there

A couple of month ago, Amazon Appstore reintroduced Amazon Coins, a virtual currency it had already launched in 2013.

In fact, the Coin was set as default payment option for the Amazon Appstore but you can now use it to make in-app purchases and buy apps for Fire tablets, Fire TV and Android devices. Moreover, you can earn Coins by purchasing an app or in-app digital item that is eligible to provide promotional Coins, and get discounts when buying Amazon’s virtual currency in bulk.

One Coin is worth one cent. With the highest package, you will get 50,000 Coins and save $125.00 or 25% for the purchase amount. Coins are not taxed when you purchase them. However, taxes may apply when they are spent. In this case, the tax is paid in Amazon Coins as well.

Coins can be given as a gift. They never expire. Except for promotional ones that are available only to U.S. customers and expire in one year. Luckily, they are used first when making purchases with Coins.

Developers use it to encourage potential customers to download their apps and keep them engaged. When you buy apps or in-app digital items with Coins, the developer receives 70%, and Amazon is getting back its 30% of the price converted back into conventional currency.

However, you are not allowed to resell and redeem Amazon Coins for cash, or use them to purchase physical items. In fact, this was one of the key points Garrett Murray, award-winning iOS developer and founder of Karbon, made in his blog post in 2013. He said “we already have money, it’s called money”, and added that there’s always a risk of snap devaluation.

Next, there is Shop with Points program.

It offers 1–5% cashback paid in Points for purchases at gas stations, drugstores and Amazon.com. In addition, it provides an opportunity to earn points on groceries with Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card.

One Point is worth one cent when redeemed towards eligible purchases. You can set the amount of Points to cover all or part of the purchase and pay the additional cost with Amazon Gift Card or other available payment method.

Shop with Points and Amazon Coins seem to serve different purposes.

Points cannot be redeemed for Kindle downloads, music, videos, apps, AmazonFresh items, Prime Memberships, pre-orders, gift cards and AmazonAllowance. Apart from it, they have no transfer options.

There are partner programs such as the one with Chase. It has 5% cashback with one Point per $0.20 spent and supports transfer of Points to partners including Southwest, Hyatt and United. On the other hand, Chase points can only be used for online orders at Amazon.com.

In turn, AliExpress has a completely different “Coins and Coupons” policy.

China’s eCommerce giant has two types of platform-related coupons: ones offered by various sellers and coupons provided by AliExpress, the platform. Both types are non-transferable, cannot be exchanged for cash, have expiration times and can be redeemed only on the platform.

AliExpress Coupons or Select Coupons can be bought for AliExpress Coins. The Coins can be earned by playing promotional games or by using platform’s mobile app. Daily app check-ins for 30 days in a row can earn up to 433 coins.

Coins can be exchanged for Coupons, products or pre-orders. 100 coins are worth $1 of AliExpress Coupon value and $2 of Sellers Coupons while the exchange rate for particular products and discount values depend on the seller. However, sellers are not obliged to work with any coupons at all.

Select Coupons are distributed via social networks, partner sites and Alibaba’s promotion programs, seller coupons — right on AliExpress. In particular, they can be redeemed for some household items and toiletries.

AliExpress Coupon program is somewhat similar to the one offered by Stop&Shop supermarket chain. Stop&Shop Coupons are non-transferable and cannot be used at another stores. However, these Coupons can be issued for exact grocery products stated on them, as well as be non-product specific.

Mega-chains keep it simple

Old-line retailers such as Walmart and Target are driving mobile commerce by incorporating behavioural loyalty programs into their apps. Basically, the strategy is “the more you purchase, the more points you earn”.

Walmart mobile app keeps track of receipts, gift cards and shopping lists. Moreover, it helps to find an item’s location within the store and has the Savings Catcher feature. The latter is a price matching tool that refunds the difference in Reward Dollars when the price advertised by a competitor is lower than the one set at the local Walmart store. The amount credited is equal to the difference in dollars, and is automatically transferred to the eGift card, so there is no need to redeem it manually. Reward Dollars can be accumulated and used for in-store purchases and shopping at Walmart.com.

Reward Dollars and eGift card credits cannot be exchanged for cash.Savings Catcher covers groceries but excludes electronics, apparel, toys, housewares and products that come with a deal, include a gift card or are bundled with additional items. In addition, the ability to transfer Reward Dollars to a Bluebird card is to be removed, starting February 1st.

In turn, Target has its own spin on loyalty programs.

Company’s Cartwheel and Target apps offered 10 “perk” points for every dollar spent in-store or online. 5,000 points would make for a one-time 5% non-transferrable discount for items such as apparel and groceries but couldn’t be applied to Target Clinic, Target Optical, Target cashback and gift cards. However, Target decided to phase out the program and promised updates to its apps based on their findings on customer engagement.

Staples has a somewhat similar Rewards program with 2–5% back, issued monthly in increments of $5. These Rewards are non-transferrable, can expire and do not apply to online shopping which requires Premier Membership.

Networked “almost-currency” startups

With networked programs, tech startups offer new business models such as points redemption for third parties and loyalty points “mining” opportunities.

Verifone, ePayments service provider, has developed a free Points Redemption app based on the open and cloud-based Verifone Commerce Platform. It utilizes the FIS Premium Payback Network that has piloted at 7000 BP gas stations, and allows to pay with points on Verifone POS terminals. In fact, the company aims to turn points into actual currency and partner with banks to allow for instant redemption. To date, its program has connected over 30 financial institutions and 9 million participating consumers.

Apart from networked payments, there are apps such as Sweatcoin and Bitwalking that track the number of steps using smartphone built-in sensors and reward users with point for actual physical activity. ‘Sweatcoins’ can be redeemed with select retailers for fitness-related products or services. FitCoin, a “physical mining” app, converts activity into CPU time on a Bitcoin mining rig and is integrated with various fitness trackers that monitor heart rate.

There are also apps such as Receipt Hog that rewards users for taking surveys and snapping pictures of grocery store receipts by assigning them a ‘coin’ value. Coin rewards are based on the total amount spent on groceries, health and beauty products which makes it similar to loyalty programs offered by retailers. However, once Coins are earned, they can be redeemed via a PayPal transaction, Amazon Gift Card or donated for charity. There are even strategies to earn extra Coins by completing various tasks inside the app.

Full-fledged consumer ecosystem

We at INS have launched a decentralized consumer ecosystem that aims to overcome retailer domination and directly connect grocery manufacturers with their audience. INS Platform, an online grocery marketplace, is powered by the INS token that serves as one of the means of payment and is used for all types of rewards earned on the platform. The INS token is fractionally divisible, transferable and fungible. In turn, reward programs are customizable with smart contracts that allow for programmable conditions and variables such as reward types, expiration dates and eligible product lists.

One of our key goals is the introduction of INS Ecosystem to the broad audiences that have little experience with virtual currencies, and our team knows how to make it straightforward to buy, earn and use INS tokens.

To date, we have secured the target raise of 60,000 ETH and successfully completed our Token Sale. Starting this month, consumers will be able to acquire INS Tokens via major cryptographic token exchanges, and upon becoming INS Ecosystem participants.

INS Ecosystem: Web, Telegram, Twitter, Facebook, Medium.

A Brief Guide to Everything ‘Coin’ in eCommerce and Grocery Retail was originally published in INS Ecosystem on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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