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There Is a Santa Claus! (We Have the Technology)

Little kids know something about supply chains, marketing and wish fulfillment that adults just don’t get. Proof can be found in their belief in Santa Claus.

We’ll restrict this conceptual study to just the United States, which has about 74.2 million children, defined as individuals under the age of 18. Is it technologically possible to find out which ones were naughty or nice? What they want for Christmas? And actually deliver all those packages by December 25?

Let’s begin this seasonal scientific report from DMN.

Making a list, checking it twice

Santa knows what kids want. But how? The “Coming to Town” song never explains it, but clearly he has a list. Compiling that list is easier done that said. According to a Pew research center study, 79% of all Americans (population approximately 320 million) made on online purchase in 2016. Half of these shoppers made their purchase on their smartphones.

Yes, Santa is part of the customer journey. Kids enter the funnel by expressing a preference for a toy or game. That preference may be triggered offline by a visit to a brick-and-mortar store (with mom and dad, of course), or seeing a friend play with a toy. 

Product consideration comes next, though the likelihood of a toddler going on line to check out product reviews is not high. After that, the process gets a little mysterious. If the child went online to check out the toys, their online movements would be tracked as data. Collectively, the preferences of tens of millions of kids could be subject to predictive analysis in real time.

Santa, acting as the vendor, can build up “customer awareness” via omnichannel, coupled with AI. That should give him real-time insight into what kids want, no matter where they go and what digital channel they use to express a preference.

Naughty or nice?

He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been been bad or good , so be good for goodness sake. That’s how the song goes. Is it possible for Santa to do this? Arguably, yes.

As for tracking kids to find out if they are asleep or awake, there is a plethora of home monitoring systems that can help with that. Video footage can be stored on the cloud, or displayed on a smart phone or tablet, and the video cameras can be wirelessly connected to a base unit

This will have to be done with consent. Parents and kids “opt in” to the Santa system as soon as they “believe in Christmas,” simply by sending a letter to the North Pole. Today, e-mail shall suffice. Be sure to indicate which toy you want, since that feeds into omnichannel for fulfillment purposes.

Tracking kids along the naughty/nice axis will be more problematic. When is wrongdoing is worth tracking? Grown ups may be working on predictive models for policing, or recidivism rates. But those models deal with real crime, and accuracy in the context of infant naughtiness is not guaranteed. Unless little John and little Mary set fire to Christmas trees, and use reindeer for target practice, it is unlikely they will become acquainted with the criminal justice system. 

We’ll assume Santa lacks the technology to track naughtiness, unless he has hacked into school computers to check on conduct. But if those little monsters were on Twitter…

Santa Claus is coming to town

Now comes the tough part — delivering the toys. According to myth, Santa piles everything into an airborne sleigh pulled by eight flying reindeer (nine if you count Rudolph). He stops at every eligible household to deliver the goods. Now run the numbers: That’s 74 million kids getting toys in one night. This could be grounds for charging Santa with reindeer abuse, given the work load.

But wait. We do have drones.

Of course, the technology has not been perfected yet. While Amazon is very interested in using drones as a delivery solution, many legal and technical issues need to be worked out. 

In the meantime, last-mile delivery can be handled by the US Postal Service (850 million packages), United Parcel Service (750 million packages) and FedEx (up to 400 million packages). All told, we are talking about 2.2 billion packages delivered in about one month — so maybe dropping off a mere 74 million packages in one day is not impossible, so long as delivery happens by Christmas Eve. 

Delivery is completed at the front door — or through it. Amazon Key combines home monitoring with home access to drop off the packages — perhaps the closest analog to Santa coming down the chimney. 

Meanwhile, back at the North Pole?

The present-day global supply chain links manufacturers, warehouses, shipment and delivery, all tied together by the Internet. Santa doesn’t need to run that workshop at the North Pole anymore. He can use existing technology to track preferences, fulfill orders, and deliver orders.

But there is another factor we must consider: Climate change. The Arctic Ocean will have ice-free summers in about 30 years’ time. As the earth warms, the ice gets thinner, and Santa may want to give some thought to moving that workshop. 

How about Hawaii? Happy holidays!

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