Overstock.com announced today it has launched an updated international checkout system that now provides customers all over the world with the option to pay in Bitcoin, making it the first major online retailer to accommodate Bitcoin worldwide. This is another first for the company, following its announcement back in January that it became the first major online shopping site to accept Bitcoin in the US.
Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne said in a news release:
“Bitcoin has been readily adopted in countries outside the United States, yet the opportunities to spend Bitcoin internationally are extremely limited. We’re pleased to offer this service to the millions of Bitcoin users in other countries and believe they will respond enthusiastically. With this move, Bitcoin has indeed become a borderless currency that permits its holders to buy and take delivery of millions of products.”
Anyone in the world can now use Bitcoin to purchase goods from among Overstock’s nearly 2 million available products. However, there are certain countries where Overstock does not ship purchases.
Byrne said in an interview with Wired magazine:
“As long as you can get on the internet, you can order and pay in bitcoin. You can order in North Korea if you want – as long as you’re having things delivered to, say, Singapore.”
Wired reports that Byrne is driving Overstock’s move into the Bitcoin realm. He considers the digital currency to be a means “to free our money system from the sometimes onerous and expensive control of big banks and big government,” says the magazine. Byrne recently declared to take 4 percent of his company’s Bitcoin sales and donate it to not-for-profit organizations that are working to further Bitcoin’s cause, and he is examining ways the technology behind the cryptocurrency could be used to issue stock in Overstock, without the help of traditional stock exchanges.
Wired suggests Bitcoin can likely help customers more easily and more cheaply store and spend money, but it can also provide a boost to retailers such as Overstock. Byrne points out that accepting credit card payments, particularly from foreign nations, is rather expensive because of steep fees from third-party processors.
“International credit cards are a real mess,” said Byrne to Wired. “If you’re taking cards from a place like Russia, there is a monster surcharge tacked on because so much credit card fraud comes from there.”
Overstock still pays Coinbase to administer these transactions, but Byrne said these fees are significantly lower.
Since January, Bitcoin payments have represented approximately one quarter of one percent of Overstock sales, or between $12,000 and $15,000 daily. It’s “a little bit more than I expected,” said Byrne, who believes that with Overstock opening up Bitcoin payments internationally, Bitcoin could drive a total of $8 million in sales by the end of 2014. Although that does not represent a strong portion of Overstock’s revenues, reports Wired, Byrne believes Bitcoin can become a way to expand the reach of his company.
“We’ve never had a strong international business,” said Byrne. “And this is a good first step towards building one.”
While government regulations – or just the threat of them – could hinder Bitcoin’s growth, reports Wired, Byrne is among those who feel regulators will find a way to accommodate the greater Bitcoin movement. The digital currency “has already become too big to fall,” Byrne said. “This is not a genie they can put back into the bottle.”
Image courtesy of Overstock