Not many people know Santa is actually a data scientist. Let’s face it though, there’s no way you could undertake billions of Christmas deliveries in one night without some excellent real-time data streaming.

Santa’s monumental night of gifting requires him to visit up to 1.6 billion households in just 42 hours of darkness on Christmas Eve. Even accounting for the geographies where Santa is a less likely festive visitor, this marks a rather fantastical challenge. The time he has to deliver on the promise of gift-laden cheer is as little as 0.0001 seconds per household.

As the holiday season comes into full swing in many countries, the pressures on businesses are also likely to ramp up. Christmas is a time where billions of parcels and phone calls criss-cross the world. While Christmas 2020 for many people is set to be unlike those before, the pressures on service providers and logistics networks are likely to grow.

Tis the season for shipping

Christmas is a time of extreme volume for logistics networks and supply chains across the globe. Products ship from major manufacturing centers around the world to meet the insatiable demand for gifts in Christmas-celebrating markets. Consumers click their way happy from Black Friday through to Boxing Day, making the most of a sales season that seems to get longer each year.

Britain’s busiest airport, Heathrow, offers a fascinating picture of these additional festive pressures. In 201727 tonnes of Christmas lights310 tonnes of dried flowers for decorating, and almost 5 million books passed through its networks during the festive season.

In the UK, over 130 million cards and parcels were delivered during the Christmas 2016 rush. While the imagery might be of brightly wrapped parcels smoothly transitioning between households, the reality is a huge data-driven enterprise that reveals the clear value of informed operational insight.

Logistics analysts estimate that the shipping needs in the US could average 86.3 million parcels a day between Thanksgiving and Christmas. That’s as much as 7 million more than current shipping capacity. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) solutions are likely to form an important part of predicting and aligning capacity across this high-volume data environment for many major logistics companies.

When it comes to Christmas of course, there’s perhaps no more iconic imagery than that of the Christmas tree. Denmark is the world’s largest exporter of Christmas trees, exporting an estimated 90% of its crop to nearby European countries. It exported around nine million trees in 2018. Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree, how lovely are thy shipping requirements.

Christmas commerce and customization

The value of the festive economy is staggering. Americans alone spent over USD1 trillion on Christmas in 2019. In the UK they spend over USD30 billion on Christmas presents alone. While the pressures of 2020 might impact that top-line value, they’re also likely to far exaggerate the challenges for businesses.

Telecommunications companies have a big role to play in Christmas, and that role is growing as mobile internet plays an increasingly important part of customer journeys. In the United States, 70% of people used smartphones for holiday purchases in 2019 according to research by Deloitte. That’s up from just 46% in 2017, reflecting a significant rise in smartphones for e-commerce applications.

Those findings are echoed by wider research into e-commerce, with predictions that mobile e-commerce will grow to a market size of USD284 billion in the US by the end of 2020. The likelihood is that the impact of COVID-19 has amplified that value. The global mobile e-commerce market is expected to reach a value of nearly USD3 trillion in 2020.

Advanced data solutions are playing an important part in this equation, with Neural Technologies’ own Mobile Money solution providing comprehensive protection through know your customer, transaction monitoring, and regulatory compliance applications. Complex neural networks provide adaptive and real-time analysis to flag suspicious behavior in even this high-volume payment environment.

Another area where AI/ML is playing a role is in increasingly adaptive customer engagement. Neural Technologies’ Optimus Platform enables targeting of subscribers through personalized campaigns, leveraging insight from target, control, and random groupings. Interventions can be aligned to key lifecycle moments such as credit top-up, prepaid credit, time of action, and physical access of retail environments.

Customer analytics will play an important role in overcoming Christmas pressures for telecoms providers. They enable operators to unlock lucrative insight from customer actions, offering a valuable opportunity to deliver a more personalized customer experience. We can’t talk about our customers without their permission, but we can say Santa has a strong reputation for excellent customer engagement.

Of course the real experience at Christmas is often one of family. 2020 is likely to be a strange year in many countries in this regard. Telephone and video calls will replace many of our usual interactions. The reality is telecoms companies have already had to tackle those pressures in 2020 in many markets, as stay-at-home orders to contain spread of coronavirus led to a rapid shift towards remote working.

It’s certain to be a Christmas like no other. But with the help of increasingly sophisticated digital and communication technologies, it’s one that many of us should still be able to share.

Merry Christmas from Neural Technologies.