This is Part One of a three-part series aimed at learning more about the merchants who accept bitcoin and support the wider digital currency ecosystem.
The results are based on a survey issued on 17th March that received more than 200 responses.
From Californian wineries to bars in Beijing, 2013 was widely considered a banner year for bitcoin, as business owners around the world began to take advantage of the technology to cut costs and woo new and influential consumers.
Unsurprisingly, expectations were high for 2014, and so far, it's delivered with major brands such as Lord & Taylor, Overstock and TigerDirect following the lead of early adopters to accept bitcoin for payment.
Still, while merchant adoption of bitcoin and other digital currencies is on the rise, less is known about these new additions to the digital currency ecosystem as a demographic – why they accept bitcoin, how they do so and whether they consider their experience with bitcoin to be positive.
In Part One of this series, we'll seek to better define the merchants who are operating in the space to paint a picture of this influential sector of the expanding ecosystem.
51% began accepting bitcoin in the last three months
In total, 51.8% of respondents reported that they began accepting bitcoin within the last three months. Nearly one-fifth (17.8%) reported adding bitcoin as a payment option within 30 days prior to the survey.
Still, there were a sizeable number of merchants who have long supported bitcoin. Roughly one-third (29.2%) of respondents have been accepting bitcoin for six months or more, with 12.5% reporting that they've been accepting the currency for over one year.
Despite fears that the recent decline in the price of bitcoin would turn merchants away from the volatile ecosystem, the survey suggests that its negative attention may have actually bolstered interest in bitcoin.
71% accept bitcoin online; 88% own bitcoin
The survey found that of the merchants who accept digital currency, 71% of respondents do so online, while 34% of respondents accept bitcoin at their bricks-and-mortar stores. Some merchants surveyed accept bitcoin both online and at their physical stores.
While it may not be surprising that the digital payment method has been most widely used online, the margin is notable, as it suggests that merchants are twice as likely to accept online than at a physical location.
Furthermore, the vast majority of merchants who accept bitcoin also reported that they own or owned bitcoin, with 88% saying that they have done so.
Just 12% of merchants who accept bitcoin said they have never owned bitcoin.
59% accept bitcoin to boost the ecosystem
Perhaps most surprising, was that despite the many benefits bitcoin can bring to businesses in terms of savings, only 8.2% began accepting bitcoin to save money, and just 8.2% were encouraged to do so by their customers.
The majority of merchants (59%) say they began accepting bitcoin to show their support for digital currency.
Still, the results lend credence to those who have accused some companies of trying to take advantage of bitcoin's popularity. Nearly one-fourth (24.2%) said that the main reason they began accepting bitcoin was that it was a marketing opportunity.
Part Two of our three-part series will analyze how merchants are accepting bitcoin and look at the results they've seen from participating in the ecosystem.
Image credit: Merchant via Shutterstock