Retailers are pouncing on social media tools this holiday to let shoppers share gift ideas, boast about their generosity and find and order products without having to stand in line at the checkout.
Most shoppers will wonder whether retailers can get the technology to actually work. I'd love to hear your experiences as you venture out on the seasonal odyssey of checking off your Santa list.
Here are efforts by three major retailers:
** JC Penney -- The retailer is announcing Nov. 15 its Santa tags. These are gift tags emblazoned with QR codes that let gift givers scan the code with their smartphone, record a personal voice message and put the tag on their gift. The recipient scans the QR code with his or her smartphone to be connected to a mobile site where he or she can play the voice message. Shoppers can get the Santa tags for free at Penney's customer service desks inside stores.
On Nov. 15, the company launches a Facebook guessing game on its Facebook page. Users pick three gifts from a list of JC Penney holiday items. If your friend identifies at least one of the three gifts as your perfect match, he or she gets a discount to use on jcp.com.
** Macy's -- The retailer is offering "augmented reality" technology that lets shoppers take a photo with animated characters Virginia and Ollie from the holiday special, "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus," and upload the photo into a holiday card template. They can share the card via email or on Facebook.
Customers with iOS and certain Android smartphones can download a "Macy's Believe-o-Magic" app that lets them print out a marker. When they point "Macy's Believe-o-Magic" camera at the marker, they can see an animated Virginia ice-skating.
** Sears salespeople in 450 stores nationwide are carrying iPads and iPod Touches to help customers check inventory, see product reviews, watch product videos and find and order merchandise on Sears' website. The first stores with the tech tools are at Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, Oakbrook Center in Oak Brook, Golf Mill shopping center in Niles and in Chicago at 1900 W. Lawrence Ave. Salespeople at Kmart at the Norridge Mall are also using the iPads and iPod Touches. In time for holiday shopping, the technology will be rolled out at Sears stores at Westfield Fox Valley in Aurora, Spring Hill Mall in West Dundee, North Riverside Mall, and in Chicago's Loop on State Street, among others.
Shoppers may access the free Wi-Fi inside the stores.
Sears and Kmart also are affixing QR codes to virtual displays of their top 15 hottest-selling toys at select malls, airports, movie theaters and bus shelters so people can scan and order the items while they're waiting.
** Finally, if you're a hard-to-fit size, check out Sizemyk, an app for Facebook and the iPhone that lets you create a profile listing your correct size across a variety of brands' size charts. Since many stores don't use the same size chart, it gives your spouse and friends the correct size in skirts, pants, blouses, hats, boots and other items without having to guess alongside the sales clerk.