The Death Of Online And Why Omnichannel Only Ever Existed In The Metaverse

I saw a statistic the other day which rather grabbed my attention. And I have to confess that I’m still grappling with it. It claimed that, “59% of (UK consumers) are familiar with the concept of the metaverse”.

Seeing that it’s still being developed, has no standards, is not regulated and there’s no agreed definition of what the metaverse is, this appeared to be something of a bold claim.

Especially when one considers that there are many consumers who still think Sainsbury’s owns Homebase, have never heard of Bunnings (much less care) and who wouldn’t know their clienteling from their showrooming — and the claim seems even more bizarre.

And that is not to denigrate the average British consumer in any way, it’s merely to demonstrate the gap between them and those in the industry.

Because, let’s face it, retail is a sector which just loves its buzzwords. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you ‘experiential’. Otherwise known as ‘shopping’. Or one of my personal favourites, ‘omnichannel’. Otherwise known as ‘shopping’. And if that didn’t do it for you, try, ‘phygital’. Otherwise known as ‘omnichannel’.

That same consumer couldn’t give a rats backside for any of them. Why? Because they’re meaningless and don’t relate to what they do ie. shop.

And there’s one thing that those same consumers are doing less of, and that’s to shop online. According to the latest figures from the Office for national Statistics, who publish the internet sales index, the percentage of all retail (excluding automotive fuel) is steadily falling back to pre-pandemic levels.

And more than that, they’re certainly not switching from online to ‘omnichannel’ or the ‘metaverse’. They’re visiting places which many of the metaverse pundits were touting as dying; they’re going to shops.

So if we apply the same thought process which bred the ‘death of the high street’ and ‘death of stores’ narrative, online is now the one which is dying, right?

Wrong, because of course that’s nonsense. However for brands and retailers it does go to show how difficult it is right now to predict consumer behaviour. Do I invest in my store estate? Do I invest in my eCommerce offering? Do I invest in social shopping? Should my brand be on Tik Tok? Do I invest in livestreaming? And perhaps most challenging of all, do I join the metaverse?

And guess what? The answer is yes to all of the above. But in varying degrees. Your brand values and customer demographics should be a good indicator of which are of more value than others (I nearly said ‘channel’ there).

However, there are two elements which are critical and apply to all; data and connectivity. Why? Because in today’s hyper-connected world, where consumer behaviour and preferences are about as easy to grasp as eating oysters with chopsticks, a data driven and truly connected enterprise is essential to both understanding your customer and then being able to act and react in their best interests.

And despite what you might have read, your customers don’t shop in channels (they’re for tunnels) because ultimately, it’s all just shopping, the only difference is how.

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Andrew Busby

Andrew Busby

Global Industry Leader Retail at Software AG, founder Retail Reflections, best selling author, former Forbes contributor, global retail influencer.