Only with increasing difficulty can one recall a time when the majority of the world was yet to adopt the internet. In 1995, user adoption of the internet had only reached 10% of American households, five years after the very first web browser was launched. Another five years later, in the year 2000, 50% of the United States nation had already adopted the internet.
Imagining today’s world without internet is simply unfathomable and, in the future, the same will be said about cryptocurrency. The technologies fostered by the crypto industry are often considered the most disruptive and paradigm-shifting advancements since the birth of the internet itself. They are quickly transforming the way people interact, trade, and gain autonomy of their own wealth and assets.
In the early 90s, internet adoption was slow. Newly developed networks struggled with concerns of scalability, privacy and ease of use. Today, we are witnessing these same key issues with cryptocurrencies and blockchains. In order to accelerate mainstream adoption, we must wear the hat of a user experience designer, because only then will we see cryptocurrencies reach their full potential across the globe.
Cryptocurrencies must first be simplified
Crypto is no simple concept. The industry is trying to squeeze a new technology into traditional patterns of finance. This may be easy for some, but definitely not for the majority.
Firstly, it’s important to communicate why there are key differences between traditional fiat money, such as euros, dollars, pounds, etc., and crypto, such as Bitcoin (BTC), Ether (ETH), etc. Most people don’t understand that Bitcoin is a decentralized and global digital currency not backed by a central entity and immune to government interference.
This year, the United States Federal Reserve pumped trillions of dollars into the nation’s economy, which will have consequences at a later date when inflation inevitably rises. Bitcoin, on the other hand, has a limited supply. With a set maximum, it is anti-inflationary. This means that over time, it increases in value.
Nodes and hash rate aside, we need to better educate the public on how understanding and adopting cryptocurrency does not need to be complicated. What holds many people back is their lack of understanding of things like crypto wallets and private keys. But we need to explain to users that using crypto is easy, accessible and highly beneficial.
At the same time, it’s important to communicate that this is not just a crypto versus traditional banking scenario — banks and institutions are also integrating cryptocurrencies into their systems. We are all adopting crypto together.
Many cryptocurrency exchanges are building strong relationships with banks across the world, and a variety of traditional institutions are also educating their users on the many advantages of crypto. Take PwC for example, which publishes a yearly Crypto Hedge Fund Report that aims to encourage the adoption of sound practices as this innovative space matures. Meanwhile, banks like ING are regularly investing in research to educate their users on the “money revolution.”
Accessing cryptocurrency must be an intuitive user experience
What’s holding back a large majority of people from entering this space is the perceived complexities of onboarding. Right now, it is those who understand the inner workings of cryptocurrency technology that are reaping the benefits of its value. New users should not be excluded just because they lack the awareness of how to access more than one form of finance.
Users need to feel confident that even if they use Bitcoin, a stablecoin or another cryptocurrency, they can exchange their funds for fiat at their convenience. Crypto debit cards now serve as a solution to meet this demand. Cash can be just as easily accessed from a crypto ATM as it is from a traditional bank account holding fiat.
New users lack the confidence that this is possible. We need to help them become comfortable with purchasing and trading crypto, which is why onboarding users with easy-to-use applications is key. The beauty of crypto is being able to access different types of currencies all in the one place.
It is up to the crypto community to simplify the process of onboarding by making it as convenient as accessing traditional finance from an everyday bank. Do email users need to understand the inner workings of their email systems? No. All they need to know is that it is a reliable communication tool. Helping users understand the process is essential to a positive onboarding experience. The process must be intuitive, and it must make sense.
The crypto ecosystem must be more convenient than existing technology
For users to adopt crypto, there must be a need for it. What’s the point of transitioning to a new kind of money if my existing bank account does the job? What is the need in the market for learning and adopting new forms of finance?
It took a worldwide pandemic, intensified political conflict and other macroeconomic factors for people to realize we have less control over our own finances than we thought. Traditional fiat can be invested and spent in ways that are out of our control, through decisions that are often detrimental to others. We know too well from past financial crises that we cannot control the value of our money when it is in traditional fiat. Cryptocurrencies offer greater autonomy over where we choose to invest, bringing financial control back to the people.
Crypto also provides users with the power to earn back crypto on purchases through a new ecosystem of “cryptoback” reward systems. It is only now that we are seeing more attractive membership and cashback benefits that have been missing from crypto since the birth of the currency, but it is important to match what traditional fiat has to offer and go a level further. Traditional fiat reward systems usually reimburse “rewards” that are often limited to airline miles and other reward systems.
Crypto cashback, on the other hand, offers the opportunity to earn a percentage of your transaction value back in Bitcoin. When it is more attractive to hold rather than spend Bitcoin, creating reward systems like crypto cashbacks without the need to visit the bank makes crypto adoption more intuitive.
These kinds of currencies are also borderless — if you can access an ATM that takes MasterCard or Visa, then you can access your finances. This significantly lowers the fees of cross-border transactions and makes accessing your money instant wherever you are.
Mainstream Bitcoin adoption is inevitable, and those who are late to the party may miss out on purchasing these in-demand assets at affordable investment levels. Cryptocurrency exchanges offer an opportunity for users to access a variety of currencies from stablecoins over fiat to cryptocurrencies, improving the accessibility of greater financial freedom and multi-currency trade.
Communicating this will be key. How we shape the experience for new users will determine the speed of Bitcoin adoption by mainstream finance. Everyone deserves the right to access these transformative forms of finance.
The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.
Jonathan Leong is the CEO and a co-founder of BTSE, a financial technology company utilizing Bitcoin and cryptocurrency technology to empower financial freedom. He has more than 20 years of experience in developing high-performance, mission-critical systems. Over the past six years, he has built many successful ventures by fusing his deep knowledge of technology with business opportunities.