The South African grocery retailer Pick n Pay has announced that it has completed the first phase of a pilot that allows customers to pay in-store using the Lightning Network bitcoin payment protocol.
As it makes transactions cheaper and faster than dealing directly with the bitcoin blockchain, the Lightning Network is gaining traction in the field of retail crypto payments. For example, Strike has developed a Lightning-based payment solution that has been integrated into the eCommerce platform Shopify.
In the pilot, the retailer tested a payment service technology that enables customers to buy groceries with cryptocurrency at till points with any bitcoin Lightning-enabled wallet.
With these, customers scan a QR code from their app and accept the rand conversion rate on their smartphone at the time of the transaction. Pick n Pay claims that service fee for each transaction costs the customer on average just 70 cents.
The grocer ran the pilot in 10 Western Cape stores over the past five months and is now extending the pilot to a further 29 stores. It stated that the intention is to roll crypto payments out to all stores in the coming months.
The retailer first started experimenting with bitcoin five years ago, when it ran a pilot in the staff canteen store at its head office in Cape Town. “It proved the concept, but the available technology at the time was too expensive for shoppers and it took too long to finalize the transaction to make it sustainable,” the company stated.
“This new technology means we can provide an affordable service for high volume, low-value transactions that will promote financial inclusion in South Africa,” Chris Shortt, group executive, information and technology, said in a press release.
“We are constantly innovating and testing new technology so that we can add real value and choice for the customers we serve. This exciting pilot shows huge potential and is another way we can help and support our customers,” he added.