Bitcoin as an E-commerce Payment Type

Bitcoin is all over the news, people are going nuts, selling off other investments and assets to buy this most popular type of cryptocurrency. With all the commotion, perhaps you’ve considered accepting bitcoins on your e-commerce site? What is involved in doing this and what is bitcoin, exactly?

An acquaintance of this blog sold all his worldly possessions to buy bitcoin when their worth went from $1,000 to $18,000 per unit last year. Bitcoin’s value has skyrocketed and is traded on the Cboe and CME futures markets. However, at the time this blog is being written the Securities and Exchange Commission suspended trading of The Crypto Company until January 3, 2018 citing “concerns regarding the accuracy and adequacy of information” surrounding the cryptocurrency, stating it is prone to speculation and manipulation.

What is Bitcoin?

Bitcoin is a digital currency that was created in 2009 by an unknown entity calling themselves Satoshi Nakamoto. Transactions are made without banks. Bitcoin can be used to purchase goods, but much of the excitement is about getting rich by trading it. The price of bitcoin skyrocketed into the thousands in 2017. A primary difference between cryptocurrency and standard currency is that cryptocurrency is not controlled by any government.

Bitcoins are created when people virtually mine for them by competing to solve complex math problems using special software on their computers. The term “mining” is used because the process is slow and labor-intensive. Similar to mining for gold or other precious metals. Mining is the way Bitcoins are added into the system: Every time a miner unlocks a bitcoin block, all the transactions on that block are processed. The miner, in return for his hard work, is rewarded with some bitcoins for unlocking the block.

Source: Daniel Jeffries, Bitcoin is the Most Stable Store of Value in History (

Bitcoins are stored in a digital wallet, kept either in the cloud or on the user’s computer. The wallet is a kind of virtual bank account that allows users to send or receive bitcoins, pay for goods or save their money. Bitcoin wallets are not insured by the FDIC and can and have been hacked or stolen.

Many marketplaces called bitcoin exchanges allow people to buy or sell bitcoins using different currencies. People can send bitcoins to each other using mobile apps or their computers. The exchanges are anonymous, which unfortunately makes cryptocurrency attractive to criminals.

What can you buy with bitcoin?

If it’s not purely an investment, people who acquired bitcoin are going to want to spend it at some point. So, what can you buy with bitcoin?

Many online e-commerce sites allow you to buy physical goods with Bitcoin. Microsoft, Dell, Overstock, Newegg, Tiger Direct all accept bitcoin. Amazon has long been rumored to have bitcoin acceptance in the works, which could cause its value to skyrocket.

Have you considered accepting bitcoin in your e-commerce site?

To accept bitcoin for online businesses is quite easy, simply give out an address and indicate how much Bitcoin users need to pay. If you don’t want to receive payments directly, payment processors can convert your Bitcoins into regular currency. Compared to credit card payments, which can take weeks until you can use that money, with Bitcoin you can use your funds within minutes. The fees to use bitcoin are quite small and, unless you use a processor, they don’t take a percentage per payment.

Coinbase and BitPay are popular merchant services that allow you to accept bitcoins either as a business or as an individual. With Coinbase you will be able to start accepting bitcoin payments on your site, which will go directly in to your Coinbase account. You can then use the service to convert those coins and withdraw them to your bank account for a 1% fee.

More and more e-commerce sites are offering cryptocurrency as a payment method, will you?

Words that Sell

Words are powerful.

Certain words grab the attention of consumers and, when not over-used, can persuade us to stop browsing and click. In the research we did on various marketing and sales websites the words that are recommended most frequently are:

  • You
  • Free
  • New
  • Because
  • Instantly

There are some good tips and a detailed exploration about the above list of five words in this Words That Work post.

People who are brought to your eCommerce site by a promotional email or post on social media using the word “free” are liable to stay and browse other products. What could be better than “free”? According to a MailChimp study, the word “freebie” in the subject line of promotional emails had more opens than “free”; know your audience.

Words that imply time sensitivity get the most opens, says MailChimp.

  • Urgent
  • Breaking
  • Important
  • Alert

And people tend to open “announcements” and “invitations” but don’t pay attention to “reminder” emails.

Have you noticed how many subject lines contain numbered lists? People respond highly when information is presented in list form. It gives readers a feeling of comfort to know where they are  in completing the list. The brain can process it efficiently and remember the information better when it’s in list form. I’ve read that we are drawn to lists intuitively, especially when the number isn’t spelled out but is written as a numeral – Top 20 Reasons to Stay Inside, 5 Back-to-School Lunchbox Meals, Top 10 Tips for Getting Stronger.

Back to that MailChimp study, guess what words strongly attract people?

“Thank you.”

About Time for Bots

You’ve probably talked with a chatbot. Maybe without even knowing it.

Bot is short for robot. And a chatbot is a computer program that runs without user control. The chatbot uses rules and sometimes artificial intelligence and runs in a major chat product (Facebook Messenger, Kik, Slack, Viber, Snapchat, etc.). You ask it questions and interact with it like you would with a real person. Soon chatbots will sound so much like a real person we won’t be able to tell them apart from machines.

For example, let’s say you want to buy gloves from Patagonia online. You would normally go to their website, use menus and search terms to look for gloves and eventually find and buy the pair of gloves that you want.

If Patagonia had a bot, and there might be one by now, you could message Patagonia with Snapchat. It would ask you some questions and you would tell it what you want using voice, emoji, or text.

Instead of browsing a website, you will have a conversation with the Patagonia bot. Hopefully the experience will be like talking with their salesperson. Users don’t need to download an app, the chatbot will exist in the already loaded chat program.

An eCommerce site will likely want to create a bot that helps you purchase something; a service business might create a bot that can answer customer support questions.


You might be as surprised as we were to find out that people are now using messaging apps more than social networking apps. This is a big shift in consumer behavior and why it makes sense to consider using chatbots. You might hear a new term created for this change – Conversational Commerce.

Conversational Commerce, or CUI (Conversational User Interfaces), is the next step beyond GUI (Graphical User Interfaces). The most effective businesses will be able to blend the two to get the best of both.

You might have “talked” to a chatbot that didn’t seem very smart. The rules-based bot is limited and only can respond to questions or commands that the programmer expects. If you say the wrong thing it could get frustrating like it can be when you talk to an automated phone tree.

Another type of chatbot gets smarter and it learns from conversations it has. It understands language, not just commands. This second type of bot uses artificial intelligence (AI). AI has become a reality where chatbots can seem very human and allow businesses to use technology to engage with more consumers.

Google, Microsoft, Facebook, IBM and Amazon all have open-source bot-making tools to help developers build bots.

It’s all happening now, you are witnessing and can take part in a brand new shift into Conversational Commerce.


Facing the Giant

The news stories stating that Amazon is on a mission to take over B2B ecommerce in the distribution industry have been increasing since the giant released Amazon Business. We’ve read those stories, too.

It’s an appetizing arena for Amazon, B2B is a multi-billion-dollar pie and they want to gobble up their slice.

Should the competition just give up?

Absolutely not.

Dealers need to stay sharp, this is not a time to be complacent. How are you going on the offensive in the light of the potential encroachment? Some lines of action come to mind; we’d like to hear how you plan on responding or if you are staying the course and not altering an already positive go-to-market strategy.

You can focus on the value proposition you already bring to your customers. And work to strengthen it: top-level customer service, convenience, loyalty programs, trusted technology partners, etc. Dealers can “out-Amazon” the competition with a passion for treating their customers like gold. They are the precious commodity.


The number of SKUs Amazon Business offers is over 10 million. We’ve heard of an interesting approach to using this immense breadth of inventory to your advantage. Look at it as an opportunity to use Amazon as a wholesaler option. Do the research to ensure you get acceptable margins, as a dealer you already meet the requirements of a FEIN (IRS tax ID #), and can make the minimum dollar purchase or pieces required. Wholesale sourcing at a discount by buying in bulk from Amazon is an approach worth exploring. Some businesses add to their supply chain by leveraging Amazon’s MCF (Multi Channel Fulfillment) option to fulfill orders from their own website.

Begin strengthening your technology efforts. Being shrewd and knowledgeable about advancements in technology, combined with your business know-how, will propel you to making positive decisions to transform your business.

Are you willing to make changes if necessary? The attitude and passion you bring to learning new and different approaches will benefit you as we face the future, even help you invent it for yourselves.

Google Fonts Refresh Becomes a Graphics Trend

In 2011 Google launched something they called Google Web Fonts. They redesigned the site last year; added filters and a fun, interactive UX (user experience), simplified the name to Google Fonts; the resulting refresh had all the right ingredients and now the free fonts are a graphics trend.

Are they really free? Yes, totally free! All of the typefaces listed in the typeface directory are open source, meaning you can use them on any web page or even download and edit them yourself. As an added bonus, the giant engine of Google’s powerful servers ensures that your web visitors will have a good experience.

Some Popular Google Fonts

What are web fonts?

When the modern Internet was born, back in 1996, the only typefaces a web designer could sensibly use were the ones that they could be sure every personal computer owner already had installed locally on their PC. If a visitor didn’t have the typeface you used on your website, they would have to download it on the spot.

Back then, Microsoft helped us all out by distributing a bunch of fonts for free, including Arial, Times New Roman and Verdana. Because most of the web users had these fonts local to their PCs, websites looked better. However, you see these fonts over and over.

In 2009 advances in web design introduced the ability for the first time for website visitors to download fonts in real time without a noticeably long download time. The fonts using this new software are called web fonts.

How do I use Google Fonts?

For web designers, an online guide on the Google Fonts API (Application Programming Interface) page explains how to use the Google Fonts API to add fonts to your web pages. “You don’t need to do any programming; all you have to do is add a special stylesheet link to your HTML document, then refer to the font in a CSS style.” (We’ll plug our VibeNet Webstore Designer tool here: dealers can easily add Google Fonts to their B2B e-commerce sites without needing a web designer.)

Google Fonts: Josefin Sans, Short Stack, Calligraffitti

As of the writing of this blog post there are 821 free Google Fonts. It’s fun to browse where you can type in text or change background colors to immediately see how a font would look with your content or page. The site suggests fonts that complement each other and you can use the filter to show the most popular styles, Roboto is number one right now.

Are you thinking about changing your B2B e-commerce site? Adding performance and design through the technology offered by Google Fonts could be the answer.

Why Offer Punchout?

In a previous DealerCloud post we talked about EDI (Electronic Data interchange) vs. cXML (commerce eXtensible Markup Language). We’re back to sing the praises of the B2B punchout, one of the ways cXML shines. An online experience is stronger when a dealer’s eCommerce site uses technology to simplify a complicated workflow. And that’s exactly what the punchout website does.

The punchout process takes your customer from your site’s shopping cart to a supplier’s website, lets them shop around and create a customized product, then returns them to YOUR e-procurement site and places the customized item into YOUR site’s shopping cart. Your customers expect to easily buy online at their businesses with the type of smooth buying experience they have online at home. Punchout manages interactive communication sessions over the Internet from one website to another, enabling a seamless transaction.

Let’s look at punchout in action.

cXML is used to punchout in scenarios other than out from a dealer’s eCommerce site to a supplier catalog (such as HON Office Furniture, Konica Minolta and others).

A dealer’s customer can enter the eCommerce site through HTTP, create a shopping cart, then when it’s confirmed/checked-out, return to the customer’s ERP system URL, for example SyQuest, People Soft, or TriMega. Or, the dealer’s customer can enter the ERP with a Purchase Order using cXML (post to VibeNet URL, for example), VibeNet will return a response to customer’s ERP system.

As B2B eCommerce continues to grow – we hear it’s continuing to trend; sales will top $1.1 trillion in the US by 2020 – you might want to consider offering your customers the best online experience with punchout.

Auto Replenishment and the IoT

By now most of us are almost blasé when our household devices connect to the Internet. From thermostats to speakers and TVs, even our scale is connected. As businesses explore this technology, making use of it while keeping it secure and reliable, the benefits to dealers are not totally futuristic but could be leveraged in the present.

A few years ago Amazon CTO Werner Vogels announced the Amazon Web Services IoT (Internet of Things), a platform for processing and using data from Internet-connected devices. While onstage, Vogels demonstrated a basic example of the new product in action—each hand sanitizer dispenser at the 19,000 person conference was constantly sending back its status to a central location, letting the conference staff know when one needed more soap. This platform is available to any company willing to tap into the cloud with AWS.


Does the IoT solve an auto-replenishment problem by creating an efficient, cost saving technology that can also drive sales?

For the B2B dealer it could help by managing inventory that currently requires staff resources and human accuracy. You might be ahead of the game if business partners offered auto replenishment that combined cost savings and increased sales. For example, hospitals have connected medical devices that can replenish supplies before they’re at the critical point. This is an obvious benefit to patients and medical staff.

But does it drive sales?

In a B2B marketplace, vendors and manufacturers who offer IoT auto replenishment are providing a convenience and efficiency and that could promote sales and loyalty. Your customers would come to depend on having their favorite products always on hand. Auto replenishment could remove the “shopping around” element of online purchasing. Instead of making purchases somewhere else, the dealer who offers convenience could be rewarded with loyalty. We see this with the Amazon Dash Button that connects directly to your Amazon Prime account. At the touch of a button the item is reordered and sent to your home in a matter of days. At the conference we talked about earlier, blank buttons were given to developers to program and innovate with, only limited by their imagination.

It wasn’t so long ago that the IoT seemed beyond comprehension or even useless. Now it’s part of our everyday lives. Dealers who innovate and are ready for change can decide how to move forward. The first step might be to find a trusted vendor who understands the industry and then work together to find their best solutions.

Are you ready?


EDI vs. cXML

Many years ago (I decline to admit how many!) I often overheard our EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) expert in a nearby office cubicle as she supported multiple dealer transactions. The conversations were highly technical with a level of heightened urgency. She focused on keeping the dealers’ business transactions flowing without any bumps or lag time.

Is EDI still relevant to the independent dealer today or is it being overtaken by cXML?

EDI was created to allow businesses to exchange paperless information with their trading partners. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is a governing body that defined and developed a common format called EDI x12 . Because EDI adheres to strict standards and definitions of these documents; purchase orders, invoices, advanced ship notices; the transactions are very predictable and reliable. Each document is assigned a three-digit number, like 850 for purchase order, 810 for invoice, etc. The documents have agreed upon segments and elements that tell the business partners what they’re sending, usually through FTP (File Transfer Protocol).

It’s all very structured and consistent. Many industries trust EDI with their financial transactions.


In comparison, cXML (Commerce eXtensible Markup Language) can appear like the Wild, Wild, West. It was created by Ariba in 1999, so it’s not all that new. In cXML there isn’t a governing body for standards. The Internet allows a shift to the future where “anything goes” — which opens the door to many possibilities. One of those that dealers can harness are powerful punch-out catalogs on their e-commerce sites. cXML software opens a catalog seamlessly on another website and lets your customers select items that go into your Webstore’s shopping cart; that’s an example of harnessing the exchange of information in a less structured way.

It isn’t nostalgia that keeps EDI around. Lillian Yeh, CEO of Thalerus Group, calls it, “the greatest idea ever.”

The loyal EDI doesn’t appear to be giving up for the “new” kid on the block. It’s about knowing what tool is right for the job.

Cinemagraphs, today’s moving pictures

Cinemagraphs are mesmerizing. A new web trend in 2017, the subtle movement draws your attention, bringing life and surprise to an otherwise still photo. Your eyes are drawn to the looping movement.

Can you smell the coffee?
(Image source: Cinemagraphs)

Different from traditional gifs, a cinemagraph doesn’t look choppy as it plays. You can select a specific element for your movement and the remaining image looks like a still photograph. The good news is there isn’t anything particularly technical about this new web trend; cinemagraphs are easy to make and look cool!

(Image source: Cinemagraphs: Still images that move)

The simple movement can make your website stand out in a unique and fresh way. Cinemagraphs can conjure up visual storytelling, bring life to a flat website, or awaken your senses. And because they don’t require anything fancy to make, you are immediately an artist.

It makes sense to use the camera on your smartphone to make your cinemagraph because the video will be available right away.

If you search in the Apple Store, there are lots of free, easy-to-use apps:

  • Cinemagraph Pro
  • Motion Moving Gif Pictures
  • Werble
  • Cinemagraph Clips Maker
  • MaskArtDraw Motion
  • Draw Motion

Flixel is the most popular cinemagraph editor on Mac. It’s powerful; we all know Mac handles graphics very well.

There are several free apps for Android in the Play store, too. I downloaded one called fotodanz and quickly created my first cinemagraph!


It was so easy to make. First you record either a three or five second video. Then you circle the part you want to have movement. Ta-Da, you’re finished! The app does require that you login to share to social media but you can email the image to use on your website without creating an account.

How will you use a cinemagraph on your website or ecommerce site?

Feeling refreshed and ready to go?

(Image source: Cinemagraphs)