A partnership between French company Digycode and national point of sale (POS) provider Ingenico has gone live, making it possible to buy cryptocurrencies offline at 10,000 tobacco shops in France – just under half of the total number of licensed tabacs in the country. BTC, ETH, LTC, XRP, and DASH are currently available, with BCH and XMR scheduled for sale in the near future.
Significantly Expanding Customer Reach
Digycode, a subsidiary of Toulouse-based parent company Digital Service, has not seen much reseller traction for its crypto services since its launch in August 2017, with only 30 POS spread across the country by the latter half of 2018. Not that this has impacted profits: Digital Service CEO Christopher Villegas reports that the Digycode product, previously in the form of prepaid cards, brought in revenue to the value of €1 million ($1.1 million) serving over 20,000 customers.
Their hitherto limited reach is now set to change thanks to a triage partnership agreement with payment solutions firm Ingenico and numerous tobacco outlets dotted all over the nation. Ingenico has POS terminals in 10,000 shops spread out across the country, significantly broadening Digycode’s end-customer reach. In effect, this gives Digycode access to a 42% market capture of the 24,000 licensed tobacco shops open for business.
A Packet of Smokes and Some Bitcoin, S’il Vous Plait
In France, tabacs, as tobacco outlets are commonly known, sell more than just nicotine. They also offer national lottery tickets, resell mobile recharge vouchers, act as utility bill payment points, and have a selection of newspapers and magazines up for grabs. Thus, in customer’s minds, it’s a one-stop-shop for miscellaneous on-the-go transactions.
The service, which went live on Feb. 11 2019, is available at all tabacs equipped with Devlyx cash registers – a brand particularly popular with tobacconists and newsagents. Thanks to this agreement, consumers can now turn cryptocurrency investors as easily as lighting a cigarette.
Shoppers can purchase vouchers to the value of €20 ($23), €50 ($57), or €200 ($226), and convert them for the crypto of their choice on the Digycode website, where they’ll be added to the user’s wallet. On the menu is bitcoin core (BTC), ethereum (ETH), litecoin (LTC), ripple (XRP), and DASH.
Better Benefits, Higher Fees?
According to Villegas, the hefty 8 percent service fee will be offset by the value-added benefits that differentiates this service offering from online purchasing platforms, including privacy concerns with sharing bank details online, scam concerns on unrecognized platforms, and “devirtualization” of digital currency by bringing it into the real world.
The company is no stranger to the world of virtual currency. Digital Service has been active in the country’s crypto space since 2014. In 2016, it launched bitcoin purchasing platform Zebitcoin and extended its service offering in 2018 with the launch of Zebitex, the first euro-crypto exchange in France.
In November 2018, overeager reporting by French radio station Europe1 stated that the Federation of Tobacconists had obtained authorization to act as cryptocurrency point of sales. Both the Federation and the Banque de France, the country’s central Bank, were quick to clarify that no such agreement had been reached.
Instead, what was being referred to was a commercial agreement between POS-terminal supplier Bimedia and bitcoin platform Keplerk. The partnership would enable tabacs to provide coupon sales for the Keplerk platform, a service that came into effect in January 2019.
French regulators continue to maintain the position that cryptocurrencies, as speculative assets, should not be deemed currency, and has issued several warnings to lay investors that partaking in such investments are done at their own risk. Since cryptocurrency sales are legal tender, authorities have no bearing on such transactions.
Small Steps Lead to Giant Leaps
Similar to Zebitcoin, Digycode requires KYC. The initial onboarding process, therefore, isn’t quite as plug-and-play as tabac clientèle will be accustomed. Seeing a “Bitcoin sold here” sign at the corner store is also not akin to lining up to buy it. On the other hand, with cryptocurrency continuing to gain traction and the Yellow Vest movement burning banknotes, it could very well be a case of “build it and they will come.”
While the availability of cryptocurrency at convenience shops is a way off from actively fostering adoption, awareness and availability are crucial first steps.
Digital Service CTO Pierre-Guy Bareges explained to news.Bitcoin.com:
We strive to democratize access to cryptocurrencies for the general public by making local availability and simplicity at the core of our product. Prior to Digycode, buying cryptos in cash was a cumbersome experience especially if you happened to live in small towns or rural areas.
With this move, Villegas’ grand vision that “anyone [in France] will be able to buy bitcoins for less than 10 kilometers from home” could become a reality.
What are your thoughts on French tabacs starting to sell cryptocurrency? Let us know in the comments section.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock and Digycode.
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