Q&A with Chris McAlary, founder and CEO of Coin Cloud
What is the current state of your product category in retail grocery?
Self-serve digital currency kiosks are actually relatively new in the grocery space. The entire industry is still young, and while first-generation Bitcoin ATMs have become quite popular in convenience stores, our advanced Digital Currency Machines (DCMs) have been very successful in the grocery channel. The machines not only perform well in that environment, but they also drive new customers into our retail partner stores for a win-win relationship.
These machines have evolved from only dispensing Bitcoin into digital wallets like standard Bitcoin ATMs do. We uniquely offer over 40 popular digital assets, including Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ethereum, various stablecoins, DeFi tokens, and even a selection of coins often covered in the news, like Dogecoin and Shiba Inu Coin. This attracts a wider audience and allows us to serve a larger segment of the population. It’s the fastest and easiest way to buy and sell digital currency with cash.
Grocery is a destination industry, and customers usually visit their local store at least once a week. As we partner with more and more grocery retailers, we find that clients appreciate being able to access digital currency while picking up food and ingredients for their weekly meal prep.
Since Coin Cloud operates the only nationwide network of 100% two-way DCMs, which means users can both buy and sell right at the machine, we offer retailers the additional perk of having shoppers in the store with cash in hand to spend. This is huge because it makes your store into a one-stop shop with easy access to cash and plenty of products to spend it on.
These machines also provide unbanked and underbanked consumers a way to safely store their money so they can use it digitally or access it as cash. Now they don’t need banks, credit cards or other legacy financial services that can be challenging for these customers to obtain.
Our machines provide a great solution to the unbanked, underbanked and those who choose not to be banked, as well as millions of others around the country.
How has COVID-19 impacted your service category in retail grocery?
When the pandemic first hit, there were only a few of these digital currency machines in grocery stores. What’s amazing is that we continued to see growth as an industry, despite many retail locations being closed. The pandemic expedited the need for contactless payment options, and caused many people to start seeking other places to store and invest their cash.Since then, digital currency has become a vital part of the conversation.
The price of Bitcoin continued to rise, setting new all-time highs repeatedly, and other assets followed suit, like Ethereum and Cardano. There was a ton of excitement around the space from celebrities, athletes and famous CEOs, which led to mass adoption.
At that point, the self-serve Bitcoin kiosk really started to take off. Industry-wide installations showed a hockey stick chart pattern, and machine installations increased by 10x. Instead of asking “What is that?” customers started saying, “I’m heading to the store to buy bitcoin at the Coin Cloud machine.”
But what other operators didn’t take into account was that Bitcoin isn’t the only viable digital currency. It’s the industry leader, but other digital assets have become equally or more valuable to customers because of their technology and utility. Many in the industry still only offer bitcoin at their machines, but consumer demand shows us how important these other digital assets are to the market.
This has given us a strategic advantage in the grocery channel, and has led to many relationships with some of the top grocers in the U.S. When you’re coming into a space with something unproven, you have to make sure you do it right. We’re dedicated to giving users the most options in terms of assets, functionality and technology, and that has resonated extremely well in grocery where shoppers expect choices.
So you could say the pandemic made it possible for our machines to even exist in grocery stores.
What are the current product category sales trends in retail grocery?
Bitcoin is the most recognized digital currency, but there are a lot of popular coins. Some people prefer Bitcoin Cash, which isn’t as much of an investment but more suited to smaller daily transactions. Litecoin fits in the middle between the two, created as the silver to Bitcoin’s gold. Dogecoin is based on these, but sets itself apart with unlimited supply, super low price and fast transaction times.
Ethereum is an extremely versatile platform, which allows programmers to create and run other projects, so it will always be popular. But beyond that, it’s at a historic time right now because it’s changing its operation model while supporting more protocols, and its price continues to rise, hitting several new all-time highs in the past few months.
Many other category disruptors are built on Ethereum, including the majority of stablecoins and decentralized finance (DeFi) projects. Stablecoins like Tether and USD Coin, and DeFi currencies like Uniswap and SushiSwap, are all getting a lot of attention lately. They represent new financial services powered by Ethereum. Even the trendy meme coin Shiba Inu is an Ethereum-based token. Not to mention the whole world of NFTs, which is basically unique digital art, and just exploding right now.
What are some consumer trends impacting your product category?
Social media has a big impact on what’s popular in digital currencies. Whether it’s a TikTok challenge or Reddit push behind Dogecoin, Elon Musk tweeting about it, corporations investing in Bitcoin or influencers talking about the rise of Shiba Inu Coin, the public pays attention.
And people are very savvy these days. When they hear about a new DeFi project like 1inch or Yearn, or read about the drama behind the launch of SushiSwap, they research the whitepaper and decide they want in.
Then they look for an easier way to buy some, because online purchase processes, especially with decentralized exchanges, can be quite complicated and time-consuming. So when they come across our machines where they can quickly buy with cash, which is pretty revolutionary, they’re already sold.
What makes your company uniquely different from other brands in this category?
We strive to offer customers the best experience. As a result, there are many features distinguishing Coin Cloud DCMs from other cryptocurrency kiosks.
Functionality: Over 95 percent of Bitcoin ATMs are buy-only. That means if a user wants to sell their cryptocurrency, like when a coin’s price has peaked, they can’t. They have to find another way to do that, and it can take days to actually receive their money. Coin Cloud DCMs all have buy and sell functionality, meaning shoppers can cash out on the spot and withdraw their money to spend in the store.
Asset Selection: Most Bitcoin ATMs let you purchase Bitcoin with cash, and sometimes you get a few other choices as well. Typically that will be limited to the top coins, like Ethereum or Litecoin or Bitcoin Cash. We have all those, but a lot more as well. In fact, we currently have over 40 digital currency options for customers, and add more as demand requires.
Language Selection: Not everybody in this country speaks English, so we have our platform enabled for over 40 different languages. This allows everyone to use the machine on their own terms, with the language they understand best.
Local Manufacturing: Coin Cloud DCMs are designed and manufactured in the USA, while Bitcoin ATMs are usually made overseas. We strongly believe that this technology needs to be built locally for the protection of consumers and retailers alike.
Ecosystem: You can use any compatible digital wallet to purchase your cryptocurrency at the machine and store it afterwards. But we have a free non-custodial mobile app, the Coin Cloud Wallet, which we designed to enhance customer experience and streamline the process at Coin Cloud DCMs.
Strong Compliance: We use the most sophisticated compliance technology in the industry, and are a step function ahead of everyone else. Some of our competitors use a voucher system that puts customers and retailers at risk by opening up transactions to multiple participants.
24/7 Client Support: Our support team is available all day, every day, right here in the U.S. Customers can reach out for answers or assistance any time using phone, text, email, or online chat.
Retail Profit: For retailers who partner with us, we offer a 100 percent turnkey opportunity with zero work and zero cost. You don’t have to worry about customer support, cash handling, machine installation, service or maintenance.
Marketing System: We list your location on Google within 48 hours of the installation, marketing your business so customers seeking digital currency services can easily find the DCM at your store. This attracts repeat foot traffic and turns your store into a destination location where clients frequently return instead of going to your competitor. We pay you a monthly rental fee, and most of our clients also shop while they’re at your store.
Coin Cloud is aggressively expanding our footprint in grocery over this next year, and we invite retailers interested in our passive income model to reach out. You can get more information or apply for your free DCM at Coin.Cloud/Host-a-DCM.
Learn more about McAlary on our Experts page, click here.