Now, for those of you who have had the pleasure of reading some of my ramblings (and I thank you) you’ll know that I’m nothing if not immodest when it comes to proffering an opinion. After all, that’s what I do – have an opinion, a point of view – something that hopefully stimulates thought and debate. Beige and bland do not sit comfortably in this parish.
Well, this one may come back to haunt me, or in the modern vernacular, this particular blog may not age well. But that’s OK with me, because it’s all about alternative views, right?
About a day before writing this, my wonderful friends at Microsoft felt that I was in some sort of Powerpoint purgatory and decided that I really needed the latest and greatest incarnation of Windows. Which frankly, doesn’t appear all that different from the previous, except I guess that I’m on a completely supportable version now. And all this got me thinking; maybe Thomas Hardy was right? (think Jude the Obscure, Mayor of Casterbridge). Maybe our destiny is pre-ordained? What if the future of retail has already been determined? And it’s just that we don’t realise it?
Many column inches are currently being dedicated to this new thing known as the Metaverse. And because Mark Zuckerberg has chosen to rename his company, Meta, we all better sit up and pay attention.
Now if I’m broadly correct, it’s meant to be a parallel digital world where we can all do what the hell we like, with zero consequences. Oh, and it’s coming to a shopping experience near you soon. Forget omnichannel (whatever that is) our digital little selves are going to have the time of our lives in this new wonderful ether. A bit like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, only with more Oompa-loompa.
But when, I hear you ask, did any of my friends or family say they could really do with their avatar popping down the shops while they put their feet up with a nice cup of tea? Alright, the Metaverse might be a little esoteric, so let’s bring it a little closer to home.
When was the last time you thought to yourself, ‘I’ve always wanted a checkout-less grocery journey that would deliver me a seamless, frictionless customer experience because it’s omnichannel I really crave’. No, me neither.
In other words, as consumers, whilst we like to think that we now have the power and the influence, the reality is that we’re nothing more than followers. Of the latest smartphone, the latest Windows update, the latest IT project.
The first text message was sent on December 3 1992. And as we know, texting became ubiquitous, but it was provided as an add-on as opposed to core, necessary functionality. No-one was clamouring for it. Much like the first iPhone. We were happy with our Nokia phones and our iPods – surely that was enough?
And so it is today. Our lives are dictated by tech whether we like it or not and retail just happens to be at the forefront of tech innovation right now.
Tech is changing the entire retail landscape – from supply chain to ecommerce to demand management to payments. Every interaction we have with retail is rapidly innovating in front of our eyes.
Technologies such as blockchain will enable us to be confident we’re only harming the planet a tiny bit, artificial intelligence and machine learning will…..well, decide just what they want to do and robots and automation will put the fear of God into us all.
However, one thing seems certain. As the very nature of retail, the very definition of it if you will, becomes not only blurred but increasingly challenged, the more the industry will turn to technology led innovation in order to differentiate itself and demonstrate value.
The only problem is, as consumers, will our ambivalence threaten to stifle all that creativity?