Santa Cell Phone

Top Five Ways Tech Is Changing the Holiday Season

Note: Today’s post comes from Allan Calder. For more on Allan, check out his page on Google+.

If you were to transport yourself back in time about 35 years the holiday season would look a lot different.

Computers were in their infancy and only a select few had them in their homes, there was no such thing as the World Wide Web let alone online shopping, and Christmas cards were something we wrote ourselves and delivered in the mail.

What were the hot items under the tree in 1980? How about the Rubik’s cube – remember that one? In the arcade Pac-Man was all the rage. Those were very different times from what we’re used to today. Tech more than anything else has transformed the holiday season and for the most part these have been positive changes.

Here are the top five ways tech is changing the holiday season.

No. 1 – The Growth in Popularity of Online Shopping

Holiday Shopping Online

We’ve all heard the term Cyber Monday, but if you were to use that term just 11 short years ago in 2004 people would have scratched their heads and wondered what the heck you were talking about. This was a term coined by online marketers in an effort to boost online sales growth. Did it work? It seems to have, since by 2009 online sales accounted for 6% of all US retail sales during the holidays and last year it was 8%. That’s pretty steady growth, and my own unscientific poll of the family revealed that every single one of them has purchased something online this year for the holidays – it seems that online shopping is here to stay. We all love the convenience of shopping from our own living rooms and let’s face it, it beats fighting through crowds at the local Walmart.

No. 2 – E-Cards Are Replacing Traditional Christmas Cards

This is one area where I don’t think tech is making the holidays better.

There’s something rather impersonal about receiving an e-card – it just doesn’t seem like the person on the other end has put a lot of effort and thought into it. When you send a traditional card you actually take the time to select a card from the store that’s caught your eye, and you include a personalized note in your own handwriting – this is holiday tradition. I suppose an e-card is better than nothing, but in my opinion it can never truly replace an old-fashioned Christmas card.

No. 3 – Social Media Holiday Connections

In the past if a loved one was away from home the best we could hope for was to hear their voice on the phone on Christmas Eve, or to receive a Christmas card from them and a note on how life is treating them. Today things are a lot better – we can communicate with our friends and family in real time using apps like Facebook, Instagram, Skype, and FaceTime. I know in our house every New Year’s Eve we connect via FaceTime with family overseas to ring in the New Year. It might not be as good as being there with them, but it’s certainly better than a phone call.

No. 4 – NORAD Tracks Santa

NORAD Tracks Santa

This is a great example of how technology has made the holidays better. I remember as a kid on Christmas Eve getting a surprise call from Santa (it was actually my dad’s friend), boy was I excited – it was even better when I was presented with a surprise early gift from the big jolly fellow. I could never have imagined the excitement of being able to track Santa’s movements on my parent’s iPad as he made his way slowly towards North America, but for kids today this is something they’ve grown up with. Every year they can jump on their parent’s tablet or computer and watch as Santa’s sleigh approaches – yes, there is even an app for that!

No. 5 – Improved Online Retail Tracking

20 Years ago there was nothing more frustrating than waiting for a package to arrive in the mail – especially if it was a Christmas present you were waiting for. There was no way of knowing where your package was, and the only recourse you had if the package was late was to make a frustrating phone call. Today, retailers make it easy for you to track your package every step of the way – from the production floor, into the truck, as it makes its way down the highway, and as it arrives at your door. Each step has an estimated day associated with it, and if there are any delays you’ll know about them right away. This is definitely a lot less frustrating than waiting on hold for 20 minutes while a UPS, FedEx, or Purolator representative gets around to telling you he has no idea where your package is!

Final Words

So what’s the verdict? Has tech changed the holidays for the better?

For the most part it seems the answer is yes.

There are some things that just don’t seem to enhance the spirit of the season such as e-cards, but online shopping can certainly make our life a lot easier. It gives us more time to spend with our families, and the growth of social media has made it easier to connect with our families during the holidays. Packages may still get lost in the mail, but it doesn’t happen nearly as often, and you’ll probably know about it much sooner. The verdict is in — tech has changed the holiday season for the better.

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