It doesn’t matter if you think cryptocurrency is the wave of the future, something you monitor, or just a bunch of nonsense.  As recently as five years ago, cryptocurrency was little more than a curiosity to a small number of fanatical investors.  Today, it continues to grow, and as it grows, more and more companies are emerging with a crypto strategy in the hope that it can become a competitive advantage.

One such company is the burger chain Shake Shack.  Shake Shack doesn’t accept any type of cryptocurrency for its products, and as the Wall Street Journal noted on 3/4/22, Shake Shack has reported minimal interest among customers to do so.  Yet, Shake Shack recently announced that customers who pay using CashApp, a digital wallet offered by Block Inc., will get 15% of their Shake Shack spend back in the form of bitcoin.*

There’s more going on here than meets the eye.  CashApp users tend to be younger, which is a demographic Shake Shack is aggressively trying to grow.  Cryptocurrency also appeals to a generally younger demographic. Bringing the two together is a novel approach to increasing interest and hopefully sales.  It’s also a new way of structuring benefits to a frequent buyer program.

Will this work?  No one knows for sure, but this appears to be a novel way to leverage the crypto craze to achieve a core business objective of getting more sales from new customers.  It makes Shake Shack appear more progressive to a number of buyers without having to revise their entire operation to accept crypto as currency. 

Retailers of all types of products have had crypto conversations within their organizations, but many of those conversations have been limited to a yes/no decision (to accept it as currency or not).  Shake Shack has expanded that strategy with its partnership with CashApp.

What strategy can your organization pursue, regardless of industry, to leverage the cryptocurrency craze?  If you create something, please keep in mind that the benefit you get will not likely be permanent.  Just about any retail operation can duplicate the Shake Shack crypto strategy, and if it proves to be successful, rest assured many will.

Being able to differentiate your company and what it brings to the market is the core concept behind creating a competitive advantage.  What Shake Shack is showing is there is no shortage of approaches and ways this can be accomplished.

You don’t have to make crypto your competitive advantage, but it is advisable to create a disciplined approach to frequently assess and create competitive advantages.  It keeps you ahead of the curve in upturns and helps you better handle the down cycles.

*Disclosure – Block Inc. owns Square and Smart Advantage uses Square.

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