Digital Business in 2022 and Beyond

By Chris Collier

You polish off your fish and chips at one of Bubba Gump Shrimp Company’s 30-plus locations. It’s time to pick up the tab and you’re buying for the booth. Your pockets are free of metal coins and your wallet is bare of crumpled dollar bills. The server approaches the table with a BitPay invoice QR code that you scan for payment. Digital Bitcoins flow from your phone into your waiter’s pocket. This is a dining experience that Landry’s CEO Tilman Fertitta is working to make a reality. Landry’s owns a number of restaurant chains, including Morton’s The Steakhouse, Bubba Gump Shrimp Company and Mastro’s.

Accelerating Trends

Ten Mastro’s—an upscale Landry’s restaurant—accept Bitcoin as payment. The current tally stands after Fertitta announced in April 2021 that most of his restaurant chains’ brands would accept Bitcoin.

But Fertitta isn’t the sole Bitcoin believer; its relevance is rising. Microsoft has allowed gamers to purchase Xbox store cards with the digitized payment since 2014 and handymen and women can spend the currency at Home Depot. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed House Bill 4474 into law in June 2021. The law amends the state’s Business and Commerce Code to recognize cryptocurrencies and defines a “virtual currency as a digital representation of value that is not *legal tender and is used as a medium of exchange or a store of value.” In September 2021, El Salvador became the first country to adopt Bitcoin as a national currency.

*Cryptocurrency, or “crypto,” is climbing its way into the current day; what seems futuristic is becoming conventional. The world of Bitcoin, Ethereum and Dogecoin is facilitated and expanded by society’s contactless trends. What does it mean for your glass and glazing business?

The Basics

What is a cryptocurrency, when did it originate and how does it work? Cryptocurrency is a payment type that can be exchanged online for goods and services, according to Nerd-Wallet. Many cryptocurrencies function using *blockchain, a decentralized technology spread across computers that manages and records transactions. The currency is nearly impossible to counterfeit or double-spend because it is secured by *cryptography, according to Investopedia.

Bitcoin was the first crypto to hit the market when it launched on Jan. 3, 2009. There are more than 16,600 different cryptocurrencies being traded publicly in 2022, according to CoinMarketCap. Bitcoin remains on top, per the market research site.

But how does one buy—or invest in—crypto? It starts with picking a crypto exchange or broker. A cryptocurrency exchange is a platform where the currency can be traded among buyers and sellers, according to Forbes. Coinbase, Gemini and Binance.US, are well-known cryptocurrency exchanges. Some feel cryptocurrency brokers are more user-friendly than exchanges, featuring less complex interfaces. Two of the most notable crypto brokers include Robinhood and SoFi—these names might ring a bell.

Where can crypto investors spend their hard-earned Dogecoin? According to CO—a digital platform from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce—small businesses can use BitPay and CoinBase Commerce for payment. CO says that these processors typically offer a 1% or less transaction fee. Consider Coinbase. “After selling to your Coinbase *fiat wallet, you can opt to either cash out funds to your U.S. bank account or repurchase cryptocurrency on the platform,” says its website.

All Digital

According to Visa’s 2021 Back to Business Study, 47% of consumers say they will not shop at a store that doesn’t offer a contactless payment method. The study also cites that 44% of small businesses believe contactless, or other mobile payment acceptance, is a critical investment area. More than half, 51%, of Americans are now using some form of contactless payment, which includes tap-to-go credit cards and mobile wallets such as Apple Pay, according to Mastercard’s Contactless Consumer Polling. A report by analyst firm eMarketer says contactless mobile payments will surpass half of all U.S. smartphone users by 2025.

Glass and glazing companies are meeting their consumers halfway, bringing several payment options to the table. Bahram Nasehi, CEO of Dulles Glass and Mirror in Manassas, Va., says cash and checks comprise an estimated 3% of all business transactions. With less than 1% of that percentile being cash, Nasehi says there’s a “good possibility” his company will no longer accept cash for payments in the future.

“We didn’t [see] a lot of cash before COVID, but it was definitely more than it is now,” Nasehi says. “We send out an interactive proposal where customers can check out and pay online. That is the format that is used most-widely right now.”

The accepted payment options at MY Shower Door in Fort Myers, Fla., have always been checks, cash or credit cards. Less than 1% of the company’s transactions are facilitated by cash. The business has nine frameless shower door showrooms throughout the Sunshine State and has seen an estimated 20% increase in virtual business during the pandemic.

“More people were buying online so they didn’t have to come into our showroom,” says Bill Daubmann, founder and president of MY Shower Door and D3 Glass. “We were getting more estimate requests online than normal … As [customers] get more tech savvy, they’re sending photos with dimensions, and we’re doing more virtual estimating and sales.”

4455 Glass & Metal Inc. in Highland, N.Y., has observed a 60% drop-off in cash usage during COVID. Owner Brianna Surkis says the shift is to be anticipated. In fact, she expected a more significant decline. “I’m not surprised—everyone got very nervous,” Surkis says. “Even now [when] handling cash or coins, I want to use hand sanitizer right after … I think it was the first thing that everyone thought about besides door handles, [in terms] of what has the most germs and bacteria on it.”

Atlanta’s Drexler Glass Company accepts digital payment options such as Venmo, PayPal and Zelle, but credit cards are not currently on the menu.

“We don’t accept credit cards; we don’t want to give that money to credit card companies,” says David Drexler, president of Drexler Glass Company. “It has not really inconvenienced our customers. Our ticket items are usually more expensive—above $1,200 to $20,000. People don’t mind writing a check for that.”

The Future is Now

Payment trends are evolving. Cash wasn’t a payment option at the 2021 Super Bowl—a historical first. Companies such as Apple, Venmo and Paypal hold market share today, but crypto could very well rule tomorrow. Or they could share the throne—Coinbase Visa debit cards will now work with Apple Pay and Google Pay, per a June 2021 announcement. Much like cryptography, the industry’s collective stance is difficult to decode. Drexler says whether or not the technology could transform into a viable payment option remains to be seen.

“I think crypto is a speculative [form of] entertainment right now for people who want to take risks and make investments but not a legitimate payment platform at this time,” Drexler says. “I think people who are accepting crypto as payment are doing so as a marketing ploy. To say you accept crypto gives you some branding. That’s not something I need or care about.”

Daubmann is uncertain about the currency playing an industry role due to its volatility. “I don’t see banks trying to value your business if you need to buy machinery or expand and get a loan; that they’re going to put credence [on the fact] you own this much Bitcoin because it could go down overnight. It’s almost like putting stocks on your balance sheet,” Daubmann adds.

Surkis’ stance on cryptocurrency is neutral, citing limited research and exposure. She’s connected to those who have fared well and poorly with personal investments. Regarding business implementation, she says, “It’s not even a thought but, who knows? Maybe in five years, it could be.”

Nasehi lands on the opposite end of the spectrum, falling “in and out” of investments. His personal portfolio has contained Bitcoin, Ethereum and Dogecoin. Nasehi’s company aims to accept cryptocurrency as payment for its new website’s projected launch this June. He plans to further analyze the taxing situation with advisors.

“I have not deferred to my certified public accountant or accountant about this,” Nasehi says. “But what I assume is [that] as you accept crypto, you have to convert it into dollar amounts; and it would have the same tax implications [that] regular dollar amounts have in today’s market environment.”

Nasehi says digital currency is a form of investment for most, but it’s creeping into a form of payment that he’s prepared for.

“We like to keep up with the digital era and the changes and adapt to them,” Nasehi explains. “Some forms of payment may be more popular. But we feel as a company, we need to offer all forms of payment for patrons and customers and make it as convenient as possible for them. Whether or not this will be huge within one year, two years or three years, we don’t know that. But being ready for it is better than not being ready for it.”

Digital Dollars Defined

Legal tender (noun): Money that is legally valid for the payment of debts and must be accepted for that purpose when offered.
Cryptocurrency (noun): Any form of currency that only exists digitally, that usually has no central issuing or regulating authority but instead uses a decentralized system to record transactions and manage the issuance of new units, and that relies on cryptography to prevent counterfeiting and fraudulent transactions.
Blockchain (noun): A digital database containing information (such as records of financial transactions) that can be simultaneously used and shared within a large decentralized, publicly accessible network.
Cryptography (noun): The enciphering and deciphering of messages in secret code or cipher.
Fiat money (noun): Money (such as paper currency) not convertible into coin or specie of equivalent value.

Chris Collier is a contributing editor for USGlass magazine and assistant editor at Key Media & Research’s Window Film magazine. Connect with him on LinkedIn and Facebook or at ccollier@glass.com

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