The Economy

Consumer Doubts Remain Obstacle to Bitcoin Growth

Big names are allowing customers to pay with the cryptocurrency, but the amount of daily retail transactions is still very low.
Matthew HellerMarch 17, 2015
Consumer Doubts Remain Obstacle to Bitcoin Growth

Bitcoin users will reach nearly five million by the end of 2019, but consumers will continue to be wary of using the cryptocurrency for retail transactions, according to a new report.

Britain’s Juniper Research forecasts 4.7 million bitcoin users worldwide by the end of the decade, up from just over 1.3 million last year. But its study provides further evidence that while the number of merchants accepting the cryptocurrency — including big names like Microsoft, Expedia, and — continues to grow, bitcoin will continue to be used primarily for exchange trading.

The U.S. Federal Reserve determined in a recent analysis that the currency is “still barely used for payments for goods and services.”

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[contextly_sidebar id=”v7IS0EkBcFM1JFTXuJ4tUgv1rkijAAzJ”]“While average daily transaction volumes have increased by around 50% since March 2014, the indications are that much of this growth results from higher transaction levels by established users rather from any substantial uplift in consumer adoption,” Dr. Windsor Holden, author of the Juniper report, said in a news release.

Juniper found that consumers are being deterred from using bitcoin by, among other things, the difficulty in communicating the concept of cryptocurrency payments to end users and “bitcoin’s historical association with — and continued use by — criminals for illegal purchases and money laundering.”

Another possible obstacle to bitcoin growth, Juniper said, is that with many bitcoins being hoarded by early speculators, currency supply could be further restricted.

According to estimates by Melotic, a Hong Kong-based cryptocurrency technology company, fewer than 5,000 bitcoins per day (worth roughly $1.2 million) are being used for retail transactions. “For many people, the currency simply doesn’t solve a problem, given the convenience and familiarity of using credit cards,” MIT Technology Review reported last month.

“Even people who might be inclined to use bitcoin might be wary of its volatility,” it added, citing the high-profile failures last year of the Mt. Gox and Moolah exchanges.

Juniper suggested that the creation of the introduction of licensed, regulated bitcoin exchanges could boost retail adoption by stabilizing currency values. In January, the virtual currency passed a milestone when startup Coinbase opened the first regulated exchange based in the United States.