Big Christmas Data – a Santa-lytics story

  • AI
  • Data Science

By Ian Amaranayake

“Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, apart from Santa’s laptop mouse”.

We’ve all heard about seasonal adjustments to analytics. We know how busy retail businesses are over the Christmas period, but surely none more so than Santa’s workshop.

Let’s consider the list of Christmas business problems here:

  1. An increasing global population with more children than ever before
  2. A broad portfolio of gifts, most of which cannot be hand carved by your elf workforce
  3. A one-night only global distribution event
  4. Multi-channel inbound present requests coming in from children with no clear cut off date, does Santa check his social media accounts, or just rely on letters?
  5. Above all, a reputation and expectation to uphold that every deserving child will receive a present

What you end up with is a real nightmare before Christmas!

How can Santa keep abreast of an ever-changing global society? The answer is clear, analytics and AI. Yes, Santa needs to modernise! For too long, he has decided who should receive presents based on gut feel. But how accurate are his intuitions on who should be on the naughty or nice list? True, he will have had a higher success rate in years gone by when the population was smaller, but regrettably that approach doesn’t really scale. In this day and age, Santa needs to be making data driven decisions. Let’s consider the possibilities:

  • A simple behavioural segmentation analysis would help to eliminate those false positives and increase the accuracy of the naughty or nice list. Self-service results for the parents of disappointed children could even help to improve discipline and act as a force multiplier for improving societal values.
  • Santa needs to modernise his workforce. Again, not so long ago the main skillset required would have been wood carving and engineering but in today’s world, he needs a more diverse team. With an ageing ‘believer’ cohort, presents are no longer just toys. Electronics, fashion all need distributor agreements to be managed with large enterprises to ensure branded gifts can be provided, and well in time for Christmas eve.
  • Could the workshop be a bit smarter in predicting what presents to stock? Forecasting demand based on a combination of consumer buying patterns as well as social media sentiment scraping around new product releases people are excited about could keep preparations one step ahead. IoT device monitoring could also track engagement with existing presents to predict upcoming requests.
  • Does Santa sleigh follow an optimal flight path? Is there too much ‘riding’ on the reindeers to get it right? So many houses, so little time and the reality is even with a pathway analysis to plot the optimal route, Santa could also do with real-time analytics to enable course corrections whilst on his journey to the cloud (or should that be through the cloud!). Weather patterns change, children may misbehave which may tip them onto the naughty list that very eve, never has the need for real-time decisioning been more important.
  • And what does Santa do with all of this data once the big day has come and gone. Well, one would hope he uses it to further optimise his business operations with predictive analytics. Not only that, elf checks should be performed to re-train and keep skillsets current as well as identify any needs to hire junior elf talent. An analysis to see if the naughty and nice list has any correlation with believer/non-believer churn could also help to make sure his delivery orders continue to grow.

It’s a competitive world out there (s-no-w joke!), Santa is competing against the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny (who never puts all his eggs in one basket!) with childhood innocence and Christmas spirit ultimately at stake. He has a world of data at his fingertips he just needs to put it to good use and by Christmas eve he will be flying!

There is a very important lesson that we can all learn from Santa – his delivery operation is and always has been carbon neutral! Maybe that’s the answer to global distribution and business travel – reindeer power (plus a bit of Christmas magic!).

Have a safe and happy Christmas from all of us at Katalyze Data.

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