Overstock officially launched its updated e-commerce checkout system today, a new feature that allows shoppers in 107 new countries to buy products with bitcoin via its international website, O.co.
The announcement marks the first expansion of Overstock's bitcoin payment service beyond the US, bringing the checkout option to major global markets such as Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Israel and Japan. The news comes roughly nine months after Overstock first began accepting bitcoin this January through a partnership with Coinbase.
Speaking to CoinDesk, Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne framed the expansion as a way for the company to showcase bitcoin's cross-border payments capabilities, while expanding real shopping opportunities to the digital currency's users in new markets. Far from being a value add to the company's new international checkout system, bitcoin will serve a pivotal role in Overstock's larger strategy for O.co.
Byrne told CoinDesk:
"This is our international marketing strategy. We're hoping that bitcoin enthusiasts around the world start shopping at O.co because they know they can spend bitcoin on more than 1 million products here and have them delivered to the whole globe."
Byrne further revealed the latest way that Overstock will seek to incentivize shoppers using both its US website and its international platform, saying that 4% of the money consumers spend using bitcoin will be donated to support groups that promote and defend bitcoin adoption.
The Chamber of Digital Commerce will be the first recipient of funds from Overstock, though Byrne could not confirm if the group had yet received any funds.
Supporting bitcoin worldwide
Byrne told CoinDesk that Overstock is already in the process of vetting bitcoin organisations from around the globe. The goal, he said, is to create a list of groups that, like the Chamber of Digital Commerce, will be able to benefit from spending on the e-commerce website.
Rather than establish any formal marketing strategy to promote the launch, Byrne said Overstock will rely on the support of the global community, who with their spending will be able to ensure that non-profit digital currency organisations can continue their work.
Byrne told CoinDesk:
"If all the bitcoin users around the world did their shopping at O.co in bitcoin, just the 4% of that would provide a tremendous amount of funds to be given back to bitcoin foundations. That's all the money they would need. All the foundations would get fully funded."
Chamber of Digital Commerce president Perianne Boring told CoinDesk that her organisation was honored at the news, saying:
"We are gratified that the work of the Chamber is being recognized and we pledge to use these funds to further promote the acceptance and use of digital currencies among government and the larger public."
Of course, the formal international bitcoin payments launch came nearly two weeks after its originally scheduled launch on 1st September, a delay that was widely discussed among Reddit users in the bitcoin community.
Addressing this subject, Byrne said the delay was due to the difficulties the company experienced when integrating its new checkout process into its international website. He said that today's launch marks the end of a six-month effort by his team, of which just one month was dedicated to bitcoin development.
Representatives from the company told CoinDesk on 2nd September that the process had been held up by unforeseen development delays, and that it hoped to have the upgraded international website up and running by 4th September.
However, both deadlines passed without any updates until today's news.
Bitcoin could also prove to be a boon for Overstock, which currently sees only about 10% of its traffic from overseas.
By adding bitcoin support, Byrne hopes to change this narrative, winning customers who are more likely to use bitcoin as their primary online spending tool. For example, Byrne told The New York Times in August that he believes adding bitcoin as an international payment option could bring the company as much as $2m in additional revenue this year.
Notably, the move coincides with Coinbase's own international expansion announced yesterday. The California-based bitcoin services provider and payment processor is now available in 13 European countries.
Images via Overstock and Shutterstock