A Retail Christmas Carol

Times are a-changing and each Holiday season brings with it technology innovations and whole new models for retail businesses. Consumers will expect more and to stay competitive, merchants will need to deliver on promise.

Retail of Christmas Past

You’re looking for a GPS for your brother who is always getting lost. You begin by searching using Google, which takes you to Nexttag, where you find a good selection and can compare prices and features. The most competitive price is from BestBuy where you buy exactly what you were looking for and as you reach the checkout, it suggests a warranty, which you also add to the cart. You expedite the shipping to your brother’s address; pay with your credit card, already on file and then track the order to make sure it’s been delivered. You’re happy and your brother can find his way home.

Retail of Christmas Present

Your brother is checking his Facebook newsfeed and sees that his sister-in-law has just bought a 50% discount coupon for a local spa using Groupon, so he clicks off to the Groupon site and purchases the same coupon. He then visits the spa site and uses the coupon to buy a facial for his wife – then has the gift emailed directly to her asking her to just schedule the appointment. He then goes over to Alice.com where he buys two bath products gift-sets and has them shipped directly to the spa where his wife and her sister will receive them when they arrive at their facial appointments. Your brother is happy and his wife and her sister are delighted.

Retail of Christmas Future

Your sister knows your teenage son follows the Knicks, and is big fan of their forward guard, Wilson Chandler. He keeps tweeting about the last game, about the game he got tickets for. She looks up Chandler’s website, and notes that he's got a pretty cool blog, he posts and tweets about everything he likes and does. She notes that he tweeted about a new pair of sneakers he just bought last week. The tweet has a ‘buy now’ link. She clicks it and is asked “Is this for your nephew's birthday?” She thinks for a moment, how does it know? Of course – Facebook! She says yes, and then it asks when she wants it delivered and whether to include a gift note. She enters a note and clicks buy - sweet and simple. When the shoes show up, her nephew gets a tweet letting him know there's something special waiting at home for him. The tweet comes directly from Chandler's Twitter account, plus Chandler's friended him on Twitter and Facebook, and he posted a personal message on his wall. Sis is happy and her nephew is stoked: Not only did she get him a new pair of shoes worn by his idol, he feels connected to the guy as well.

This post was co-authored by Ulrik McKnight and Chris Kalaboukis. If you want to understand why there was no conventional retailer explicitly involved in tomorrow's retail experience and what forces are already changing consumer expectations check out the post at FirstRetail.com