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Former Member
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I don’t consider myself to be a procrastinator when it comes to shopping for the holidays.  I made my list very early on (even before all the retailers start their holiday decoration) and identified gift ideas for all of them.  However, there will always be a few that I would agonize over until the very last day.  Sometimes, I would find something great.  Others, I would end up with lame “gift cards”.  Maybe there should be a song titled “The 12 Days of Shopping Agony”.

Apparently, I am not alone.  A research study produced by McCann Truth Central published in November, “The Truth about Holiday Shopping," found similar sentiment.  According to the survey, a quarter of British consumers liken holiday shopping to "a military operation." And roughly half of American shoppers say it's "like having a tooth pulled."   And one-third of consumers globally would outsource all of their holiday shopping, if they could.

This is a great opportunity for retailers, particularly online retailers!

With so much information available on the social media, availability of real-time computing, and advances in predictive analytics, it’s not a far-fetch idea for retailers to assume the role of digital elves.    Imagine if retailers can scan through the sea of data and find out what your friends and relatives want and present you with a very personalize gift suggestion list?  As a shopper, it would make your shopping more enjoyable and less of a chore.  As retailers, it would be great opportunity to increase sales while developing stronger relationship with customers.

One obvious requirement would be for retailers to collaborate with social media firms in order to leverage customers’ social network.  And of course, privacy concerns would need to be addressed, and retailers would need to secure the proper permission from people to use their social data.   Then, retailers could combine and match social customer social data with their own customer base to develop highly accurate and relevant recommendation list for each ndividuals.

This may sound scary to some but there's plenty of evidence that many people are willing to share their personal social network providing they see a strong benefit from doing so.

I'd go even further: people want their favorite retailers to play the role of Christmas elf for them. In the Truth about Holiday Shopping survey, about half of  young consumers in the US said they'd be happier if their favorite stores selected their gifts instead of their partners.

People are already turning to the Internet for a lot of their holiday shopping needs.  About twice as many people now use the Internet for holiday shopping information as use TV or catalogs, according to the" Google 2013 Holiday Shopping Intentions Study" conducted in September.  In fact, four out of five shoppers consider the Internet the single most "useful" resource for their shopping.

Leveraging Big Data to create personalized holiday "wish list" is an intuitive extension of what people are already using the Internet for. It can take a lot of the guesswork out of shopping -- and forge even stronger relationships with the retailers they already depend on.

And who knows, many gift recipients might end up getting something they want even more than a gift card -- or a partridge in a Pear tree.