How Digital Tech Can Increase The Reach Of Santa And His Letters

child writing letter to Santa

Even in this digital age, it’s still a tradition: writing letters to Santa. And as the holiday season approaches, that letter-writing is one example of how retailers and other organizations operating in retail in vital ways are getting into the spirt.

The United States Postal Service — which plays a major role in eCommerce — said it has launched a website designed so that children from low-income families can get their letters read by Santa. “In recent years the program has been available in under two dozen cities, but this year, the letters may be adopted from every US city, thanks to a new USPS website,” the USPS said. “Volunteers may also read letters in person at one branch in Chicago, and another in New York City. To protect children’s privacy, USPS ® staff redact last names and addresses from every letter. Gifts must be mailed by December 20th, in time for delivery by Christmas.”

The move stands as one example of how Santa has evolved as more retail and holiday shopping go digital. But it has not always been an easy path for that annual gift-giver from the North Pole.

Santa and Privacy Laws

For instance, not even Santa can escape the limits of privacy laws in Europe. But don’t worry — there is a happy ending. Last holiday season, privacy laws threatened a  Christmas tradition in the German town of Roth, Bavaria that has children placing their wishes to Father Christmas on a Christmas tree in the town’s Christmas market.

That market, and the tree and its wishes, are open and accessible to the public — hence the privacy issue. As the report goes, “in previous years, up to 4,000 wishes to Father Christmas were placed on a tree … previous requests granted included trips to the fire station, books and visits to the mayor. The festive event was seen as a major highlight for local kids.”

But the event stopped in 2016 because of Germany’s own data privacy and protection law. To get around the law, local officials decided to put those wishes into lockboxes, but “that was made redundant in May, when the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into force,” the report said.

As readers of PYMNTS most likely know, “that legislation states that parents of minors have to provide consent to the use of their kids’ data. Organizations that fail to comply face big financial penalties.”

The town of Roth decided to abandoned the wish list tradition because “providing proof of [consent] was deemed too onerous by the council.”

But the spirit of Christmas is not easily defeated — nor the desire of a local radio station to (presumably) earn good PR while doing a very good deed for the children. That station, Antenne Bayern, “created a wish list, which included a parental consent disclaimer, which can be printed from their website and put in the wishing box at the Christmas market” that opened on Thursday, according to the report.

No matter what, retailers are certainly in the swing of things when it comes to holiday shopping.

For instance, Walmart started its holiday shopping season early this year, citing fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The retailer is advertising deals for the season “earlier than ever” and began rolling them out on Oct. 25, CNBC reported. The company said shoppers would be able to find deals on its website, like $25 off a BouncePro 7-Foot My First Trampoline and $100 off a VIZIO 55-inch Class M-Series Quantum 4K Ultra HDR Smart TV. Walmart said it would debut new deals regularly as the season progresses, and is also offering free next-day delivery for the first time.

Here's hoping Santa reads your letters with care in the coming weeks.



The How We Shop Report, a PYMNTS collaboration with PayPal, aims to understand how consumers of all ages and incomes are shifting to shopping and paying online in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our research builds on a series of studies conducted since March, surveying more than 16,000 consumers on how their shopping habits and payments preferences are changing as the crisis continues. This report focuses on our latest survey of 2,163 respondents and examines how their increased appetite for online commerce and digital touchless methods, such as QR codes, contactless cards and digital wallets, is poised to shape the post-pandemic economy.