Delivery is a big part of e-commerce. Buyers demand a reliable, fast, and cheap delivery system so they can get their purchases on time for a fair price. Although BitBoost is not a delivery company, we are working to provide the most convenient choices for our users, both buyers and sellers.
Our plan is to include several delivery options. Of course, regular companies, such as UPS, Fedex, and national post services will be included through APIs. But we will also include blockchain-based delivery services. Since we are a blockchain project, this choice is logical and is clearly consistent with our purpose to redefine e-commerce.
We are exploring mutually beneficial relationships with startups to manage the delivery part of the e-commerce value chain. Our first partnership is with PassLfix, a startup with a fully decentralized solution. Although more announcements about this topic will come very soon, we want to talk about our agreement with PassLfix, so users will have a clearer idea of what to expect when The Block is live.
Smart contracts to handle the value chain of e-commerce: How will delivery work in The Block together with PassLFix?
Álvaro, BitBoost’s Director of Marketing, and I recently had the pleasure of meeting with the PassLfix team in person to discuss integrating their service into The Block. We met in Zug for about 3 hours, drinking lots of coffee and making progress on our plans.
The first thing to understand about PassLfix is that they are not a delivery service. Delivery is what The Block will use their technology for, but they do not themselves provide delivery. PassLfix is a platform that can be used by delivery and courier services, even individuals, to offer their services to others in a decentralized, trust-less manner, while still providing security. They leverage the power of smart contracts to let customers insure their deliveries with no third party intervention, except in the case of disputes. And in the case of disputes, the courier’s actions will have been thoroughly documented on the blockchain to make dispute resolution easier.
The Block will integrate services that use the PassLfix platform so that we can give users the most decentralized product possible, thus increasing the savings they can gain by cutting out the middleman wherever possible. But sellers will still be able to offer shipping via traditional services like FedEx and DHL – The Block is all about choice. I think the best way to explain how The Block will use PassLfix is by way of an example.
Let’s say you are a seller, and you want to limit your sales to just your home city – maybe you sell freshly baked pastries. (We are working on geographically-restricted sales, by the way, so that buyers can search for just local sellers.) When it is time to choose delivery options, you will be able to look at just the couriers who operate in your city, and view the delivery options they offer. For instance, you might settle on Bob’s Courier Service, which offers delivery within the city limits of items under 5 kilos on the same day for 1 euro, or delivery within 3 hours for 2 euros.
How did Bob’s Courier Service find its way into The Block? Bob signed up his company using PassLfix’s app, where he was able to specify which services he offers, and at what prices. Bob also had to buy some of PassLfix’s tokens, which are used to make a deposit whenever his company accepts a delivery contract.
If a seller offers Bob’s service to her buyers, the buyer will see this as a delivery option. Let’s say that a buyer purchases one of our seller’s items, and then selects Bob as the delivery service. When the seller approves the order, Bob is notified of the pickup address, the delivery address, the item information, and the type of delivery service requested (in this case, 3 hour delivery). Bob pays a deposit into the delivery smart contract, and dispatches his courier.
The courier picks up the item, and photographs it before packaging. The hash of this photo is added to the blockchain, the seller releases the package to the courier, and the courier begins the delivery process. At frequent intervals, the courier’s phone (which has the PassLfix app installed) uploads GPS data to a data streaming service (such as Streamr), and the buyer can view the progress of the delivery from within The Block.
When the item is delivered, the buyer signs off on the delivery. The courier is paid by the seller (from the delivery smart contract), the deposit is released back to Bob’s business, and the sale is completed, which releases the buyer’s escrowed funds from the item’s smart contract to the seller.
To me, the ability to track the item’s movement from with The Block, combined with the decentralized nature of PassLfix’s smart contracts is a winning combination. The seller and buyer are both protected by a deposit paid by the courier. I believe this model of services, without a middleman taking a cut of every transaction, is the future of commerce, and I am pleased that The Block will be one of the first apps to make use of it.
Conventional shipping services will always be available and, for the foreseeable future, will remain the standard. But we can see the next step in the evolution of e-commerce, and shipping via PassLfix is just the tip of the iceberg. Eventually, I expect that the bulk of e-commerce will follow this model, where buyers and sellers connect directly to each other and leave the mechanics of payment and the security of the transaction to smart contracts, only involving a third-party in the case of disputes.
This brings me to dispute resolution. We are developing smart contract-based solutions to that process as well. Right now, “fintech” is where most blockchain innovation seems to be happening, but I think e-commerce will eventually surpass it as a hotbed of innovation and disruption. Buying and selling is something all of us do every day, so the possible range of impact is much greater than what may come out of fintech.