Technology Futurist Jack Shaw wants wholesalers and distributors to pay attention: Blockchain is beginning to permeate the B2B marketplace, and if they want to reap its benefits, they need to understand how it will impact them and begin planning for it now.
Shaw is a leading expert of blockchain technology and, at Unilog’s EVOLVE 2019 user conference in April, he’ll explain why blockchain will be an industry game changer in the next few years. For more than three decades, Shaw has helped wholesalers and distributors understand the impact of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), and blockchain, and has advised them how to evolve with these trends to maintain a competitive edge. As one of EVOLVE’s keynote speakers, Shaw will share his blockchain expertise with attendees and provide pragmatic ways to incorporate all three emerging technologies into their digital strategies.
Since blockchain is likely new or unfamiliar to many people, we’ve provided some background and insight from Shaw to help conference attendees gain a better understanding before his presentation.
What is blockchain?
While blockchain technology can seem difficult to understand, the concept is simple: it is a means of providing transparency and better visibility of shared information. Information on a blockchain exists within a shared database, which allows the digital data to be distributed to members, but not deleted or even updated except by those authorized to do so. Every transaction and handling of data is documented in real-time to ensure up-to-the-minute accuracy and reliability.
The idea for blockchain technology was first developed in 2008 for the digital cryptocurrency Bitcoin as a way to execute transactions more efficiently within a secure ecosystem of network members. Instead of having a series of separate, siloed databases managed by each network member, blockchain allows organizations to work, in essence, in a single, shared database. A set of controls for each participant or member manages what they can see or do with the data. Unlike a traditional database, the blockchain ecosystem is hosted simultaneously by hundreds to thousands of computers, making it nearly impossible for hackers to corrupt or alter the database.
Offering better visibility, efficiency, and security, this innovative method of transacting eventually gained the attention of the tech industry, which began finding ways to utilize the technology to benefit other business models – including wholesaling and distribution.
Blockchain’s benefits for B2B
With blockchain, every time a product changes hands it is documented, creating a permanent, trackable history from the day it was manufactured to when it was sold. This gold mine of information gives businesses enhanced visibility at every touchpoint, so they can better monitor their products, identify and rectify issues more quickly, and run a more streamlined business.
Walmart recently announced it is integrating blockchain into its food distribution channel and is requiring everyone down the supply chain to participate. The technology will allow them to capture bar code scans so they can monitor important data such as temperatures of perishable products moving through the supply chain. This information is then visible to the exporter, import distributor, the Walmart distribution center, and the retail store so they can track and monitor a product’s freshness. If they detect an issue, they will be able to determine the source of the problem within seconds, not weeks. Blockchain will give them the ability to keep the public safe, while keeping their costs to do so to a minimum.
While the retail sector is beginning to reap the benefits of blockchain, Shaw says the B2B marketplace will experience big wins from it, too. “Blockchain allows a business to see information immediately so they can act immediately, which will eliminate errors, as well as reduce costs and inefficiencies. It also offers a secure and trusted way to share data, so organizations can feel confident the information is accurate and up-to-date as it moves through the supply chain.”
Shaw asserts blockchain is going to make a huge difference for day-to-day operations managers who have to make decisions about how much inventory to keep on hand. “With more product information visibility from blockchain,” explains Shaw, “they can find the right balance to keep customers happy, without having too much inventory in their warehouse.”
Major eCommerce players in the B2B marketplace have already begun to take advantage of blockchain to advance their competitive position. Shaw anticipates retail giants like Alibaba and Amazon Business will create a more competitive threat to distributors and wholesalers when they add blockchain to their digital technology arsenal – which is why he advises B2B companies to pay attention to the marketplace and begin looking now for ways to incorporate blockchain into their digital commerce offerings.
While blockchain is relatively new in the B2B marketplace, Shaw predicts there will be significant penetration in the market by 2020. “The timing to begin incorporating blockchain technology is very good right now,” says Shaw. “You’re not behind the 8 ball, but you shouldn’t wait any longer to start researching and learning how blockchain can benefit your business.”
Don’t miss Shaw’s information-packed presentation at EVOLVE April 9-12, 2019 in New Orleans. He’s guaranteed to offer new perspectives and new possibilities for your organization. Register now for the fifth annual Unilog customer conference to take advantage of early bird rates.