Investing in digital currency can be a daunting premise: price volatility, buying/selling at the right time, or even what to buy in the first place are all valid concerns—however using an exchange isn’t the only way to participate.
One of the more exciting announcements Coinbase has made recently is the launch of Commerce, a service that enables merchants to accept multiple digital currencies directly into a user-controlled wallet. Unlike other hosted solutions, this is the first example of a truly easy-to-use product I’ve come across that puts merchants in complete control of their funds.
Here’s a quick guide on how to get started…
1. Figure out what to sell
Virtually anything you can sell with traditional eCommerce tools is saleable for digital currency, however no merchant processing fees and low network fees allows for some interesting use-cases. For example: what about a tip jar for your app/service to keep it running, or selling small/singular digital goods such as a stock photo or icon. These ideas are traditionally prohibitive for merchants with credit card providers (for reference, Stripe charges 2.9% + 30¢ on international transactions).
For a long time I’ve been interested in the intersection between digital and physical, so my idea was a poster celebrating the first block ever mined on the Bitcoin network:
The Genesis Poster is a homage to the very first block mined on the Bitcoin network. This double-sided poster features the raw hex information of the block, as well as The Times edition referenced within the coinbase input. Purchase here.
2. Create a Coinbase Commerce account
Once you start the sign up flow, you’ll be met with the following steps:
Email & Password
This spares you the hassle of having to enter your recovery phrase every time you consequently sign in. Notifications relating to your sales will also be sent to this email address.
Receive and verify your recovery phrase
Think of this as a master key to your funds. It’s possible to use this phrase to manage your funds simultaneously in other wallets. A brief tutorial on how this works can be found here.
WARNING: Remember to never share your recovery phrase and always store it in a secure location. If someone can access your recovery phrase they can access all your digital assets linked to that phrase!
Two-factor Authentication (2FA)
Since you’re in full control of the funds, the more security the better. 2FA helps prevent your account being compromised if someone ever managed to sign in with your email and password alone.
3. Create a checkout
Now that you’re in the dashboard, the next step is to create a checkout for each of the items you want to sell. Commerce lets you set up two kinds of checkouts out of the box: a product, which is a fixed price checkout, or a donation, which lets the buyer specify how much they want to send.
4. Integrate the checkout into your site or app
All that’s left to do is implement your checkout. There are two ways of doing this: a direct link or an embedded widget.
Shopify users: You can follow these steps to implement Commerce into your existing checkout flow as an additional payment method.
Using a direct link
If you’re unable to embed the payment flow into your app (e.g. maybe you’re prompting for a payment in an email or SMS), you can still send users a link which will take them to a hosted Commerce page. This will direct users to a page that will look like this:
For a less disruptive checkout experience, you can also embed the entire flow within your website. This is achieved by adding a ‘payment button’ which triggers a full-screen modal once the user clicks it.
Note that if you choose this method you’ll need to add your domain to the ‘whitelisted domains’ in Settings. You can edit this in your dashboard by visiting: Settings > Whitelisted domains > Whitelist a domain.
That’s it! Everything should be ready to go…
Once the transaction has been confirmed on the network you will receive an email which includes order details, similar to this:
Since I requested the email as part of the checkout, I now have the ability to communicate with the customer directly to complete the transaction (I’ll need a physical mailing address to send the poster). For those only dealing with digital goods or donations, this part will be even simpler. If your website or app has additional functionality that is unlocked after a purchase is confirmed (e.g. removing a paywall), the offical API docs have more info.
Bonus points: Set up a Slack WebHook
For a little added sugar I decided to set up a Slack WebHook to notify me whenever there is a sale. Especially when you’re working with a team, these prompts can be great motivators, or perhaps even more importantly, alert you to issues faster than if you were just checking emails sporadically.
Investing in yourself
While I don’t think that earning digital currency by selling goods or services can necessarily be deemed as passive investing (convincing others to part ways with their money, digital or otherwise, is a challenge in and of itself), using tools like Commerce puts merchants in a position where they can choose their own comfort level. I can immediately sell to my local currency once I receive the funds to avoid exposure, or perhaps I’m willing to sell enough to cover my hard costs and therefore build a portfolio over time.
I’m looking forward to seeing how Commerce will be able to make this process even easier, for consumers and merchants alike.
Sign up for a Coinbase Commerce account here.