Hundreds of Canadian merchants are enthusiastically accepting Bitcoin as a payment option, but disappointed by its low rate of consumer support, according to a recent study by forensic research firm CorbinPartners Inc.

More than half of respondents blamed the uninspiring response on a lack of awareness, both of the digital currency’s availability on the consumer end, and of its acceptance on the part of businesses, CorbinPartners president and COO Jon Purther said.

However, the study also discovered that a majority of respondents were optimistic Bitcoin use would increase substantially over the next five years, and four out of every five merchants who had adopted the currency would recommend doing so to other business owners, he said.

“It’s very much an awareness issue,” Purther said. “You’ve heard of Bitcoin, obviously, it’s written about constantly… but although the everyday customer may be familiar with the name, they don’t have the same comfort level with how it works. [The merchants’] comment is that needs to be increased, and I think the expectation is that it will.”

CorbinPartners conducted the survey both online and by telephone during the second half of 2015, ultimately reaching some 10 per cent of Canada’s 300-plus Bitcoin-friendly business owners, Purther said. The merchants were chosen at random from across the country, and represented multiple industries, including restaurants, specialty food producers, business consultants, financial services, and hotels.

When asked why they had chosen to adopt Bitcoin, many respondents cited the novelty aspect, or their willingness to add another payment type to the multiple options already available, Purther said. Nearly half cited Bitcoin’s lower transaction cost compared to debit or credit cards as a reason to keep it – a benefit often cited by the currency’s supporters, he added.

“The Bitcoin industry would say… there’s no middleman,” Purther said. “There’s not a sense like the traditional banking industry standing between the buyer and the seller.”

As for how the companies that support Bitcoin can raise its consumer support in Canada, Purther said that ideally, the next step would be to conduct a survey of consumers to gauge their awareness of the currency – and their willingness to use it, given the security concerns related to crypto-currency exchanges that have been in news headlines.

“When we conducted this study, the plan all along was to expand it to include the consumer side… and therefore determine what gaps may be present,” Purther said.

“If the study gets expanded, I think the idea of looking at it from the consumer standpoint and comparing the merchants with the consumers, and determining where there are similarities and where there are gaps, would absolutely be the next step.”

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