What is blockchain, and why is it vital to communicators?

The global online ledger has retail sales implications for manufacturers, as well as applications in elections, identity security, consumer protections—and much more, as PR pros get creative.

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Why don’t most producers of goods sell directly to customers?

There are no Whirlpool stores. If you want a Whirlpool refrigerator, you go to Sears or some other appliance retailer. Even if you visit the Whirlpool website, you will find that each product listing comes with a “Where to Buy” button.

Whirlpool is not in the direct-sales business. Managing all those consumer transactions is not a Whirlpool competency. It is easier to be a wholesaler, selling in bulk to retailers whose business model is based on consumer sales and the complex chain of financial transactions that go with it.

The Internet has enabled e-commerce and the likes of Amazon, disrupting brick-and-mortar retailing with more streamlined processes for financial transactions. Still, Whirlpool needs retailers to sell its goods to consumers, and the wholesale/retail dichotomy remains firmly in place—though perhaps not for long.

Large companies have launched big experiments with a new technology that could enable Whirlpool (and GE and Black & Decker and Samsung and every other producer of goods) to sell directly to customers. This technology could do to Amazon what Amazon did to brick-and-mortar retailers.

The technology is called blockchain

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