Brick-and-mortar stores were dead. Or so we thought.
There was no doubt about their demise and the decline of customers going out and queuing up to buy their goods. The register of brick-and-mortar’s burial was signed by the retail owners, the advance of technology, and the customers.
Scrooge and physical buying were once partners, so on the dreadful day of the downfall of brick-and-mortar stores, it came as a surprise that Scrooge was not at all cut up by the sad news. Instead, on the very day of the funeral, Scrooge solemnised the occasion with an undoubted bargain. That bargain being ecommerce.
As Scrooge reviewed the last of the day’s online orders by the glowing fire, a ghostly ring of store-front bells chimed so loudly that it shook Scrooge to sink back into his armchair.
Scrooge remembered that haunted houses were supposed to echo noises of dragging chains. He couldn’t put his finger on it (maybe because he was too busy scrolling along his screen of order lists), but the noises reminded him of the dragging of delivery trolleys. It shot him back to the memory of deliveries picking, packing and dispatching.
What came crashing through the door – like the crash of the doors closing from the delivery van on a Monday-morning delivery rush – caused the glow from Scrooge’s iPad screen to fade. A spectre flew into the room: Brick-and-Mortar’s Ghost.
It was just as Scrooge remembered: the usual “Open” sign, floor-to-ceiling windows, and brightly lit shelves. But now the wood on the latter was chipped away, and the money till and scanner upon its counter was chipped, faded, and forgotten. The chain that had created the cluttering noise was long and made of cash-boxes, keys, and card machines.
“Hear me!” cried Brick-and-Mortar’s Ghost. “My time is nearly gone. I am here tonight to warn you that you have yet a chance of escaping my gloomy fate, and the opportunity to understand how to cope with such hoards of customers at this time of year. You will be haunted by three spirits. Learn from them. They will show you your past, your present, and the future you could have.”
With those words, the spectre left, the sound of clattering till registers following in his wake. Scrooge double-locked the window, went straight to bed, and fell into a terrified sleep.
Scrooge awoke to a strange figure standing over him – a figure with hair that was spiked with frosted tips. It wore a multicoloured jacket, and a mood ring on its left-hand middle finger. It came to Scrooge’s mind that this unearthly phantom was something from the 90s.
“I am the Ghost of eCommerce Past and I come to you from 1994. Remember, the year Amazon was founded?”
“The things that you will see with me are shadows of how ecommerce used to be. Rise and shop with me!”
Dressed in his slippers and dressing-gown, Scrooge rose, and was suddenly transported to the busy thoroughfares of a city. The Ghost stopped outside two neighbouring stores, waiting for Scrooge to recognise them.
“I know these!” exclaimed Scrooge. “This is where the first secure online purchases were made.”
The Ghost of eCommerce Past nodded. The first store was the dough-making shopfront of Pizza Hut. Scrooge waited to witness the making of a large pizza that was ordered from Pizza Hut’s first online system. Through the next window – that of the US retailer NetMarket – Scrooge watched as a Sting CD was pulled from the shelf and began its journey to an early online shopper.
Before Scrooge could cry Bah! Humbug at the old workings of online retail, the Ghost transformed. Before Scrooge’s awestruck eyes, frosted tips in the Ghost’s hair became striped highlights, and cargo trousers appeared on his legs.
“Looks like we’ve swapped the 90s for the 00s now,” muttered Scrooge. The ghost nodded.
It wasn’t just the styles that changed quickly: people on computers and reaching for bank cards emerged before Scrooge’s eyes.
“You see, Scrooge, in a short time, things change quickly. Thanks to the introduction of broadband in 2000, the ecommerce industry was prompted to change into something faster, more organised, and designed around customers. Those who didn’t...”
Scrooge looked hesitantly at the spirit and protested, “I did change. Eventually, I did!”
Before Scrooge could carry on to defend his retail journey, the spirit hastily brought his explanation to a halt. Gazing into his mood-ring, he said, “eCommerce sales rose by 26% thanks to the introduction of broadband. But, Mr Scrooge, were you quick enough to be a part of those rising sales?”
Scrooge’s eyes dropped to his night slippers. Deep down, he knew he had waited too long to update and take advantage of new opportunities.
“I told you these were shadows of the things that have been. That they are what they are, do not blame me!” said the Ghost.
“I cannot bear it!” exclaimed Scrooge. “Take me back. Haunt me no longer with my ecommerce wrongdoings!”
The following night, a powerful beam of light streamed into Scrooge’s room from beneath his bedroom door. It was clear that this bright surprise was not an ordinary light – it was the light of the second Ghost.
Scrooge shuffled into the adjoining room, which had undergone an unbelievable transformation. The walls and ceiling were hung with living greenery, from which bright gleaming parcel tags portrayed themselves as berries. The crisp paper from receipts and invoices reflected back the light, and heaped on the floor were empty boxes forming a kind of throne.
The Ghost of eCommerce Present sat using his mobile device, which bore a glowing torch. He held it up to shed a light on Scrooge.
“Spirit,” said Scrooge submissively, “conduct me where you will. I went forth last night and I learned a lesson. Tonight, if you have aught to teach me, let me profit by it.”
Faster than an Amazon Prime delivery, the loose invoices and receipts vanished. Scrooge and the Ghost were transported to the city streets on Christmas morning.
But there was nothing cheerful in the air. A foreboding tone for what Scrooge was about to encounter. The Ghost of eCommerce Present led Scrooge to a small house on the corner. This house belonged to the Cratchit family. Known to have little in their pockets, they were a lovely, polite, and grateful family.
Scrooge’s eyes darted from wall to wall, but something caught his glass-glazed eyes. There, nestled in the corner, was the Cratchit boy known as Tiny Tim.
Tim was visibly upset, for it was Christmas Day and his present had not arrived. The Cratchit family could only muster enough in their PayPal to order one present for each child. They had all arrived on time, apart from poor Tiny Tim’s parcel. Scrooge couldn’t help but hang his head in shame, as a rush of guilt spread over his crinkled face.
“How could this be?” croaked Scrooge.
“Well, Mr Scrooge, Mrs Cratchit completed her Christmas shopping through the world of online retailing, just like the rest of the street did. However, when it came to Tiny Tim’s present, there was a mix up with your systems and stock.”
“But that can’t be!” exclaimed Scrooge adamantly.
“Oh, but it is,” continued the Ghost, pointing towards sobbing Tiny Tim. “The mix-up has caused poor Tim here to be left with no present, no parcel, and – for him – no Christmas.”
“But tell me, Ghost of eCommerce Present, how am I supposed to ensure all my deliveries arrive on time. There are so many, and I am but one man – it is merely impossible that I can deliver all my festive orders on time. Bah! Humbug, I say.”
Scrooge turned from the window, and a glimpse of emotion almost fell upon his face, but it quickly faded when he saw the phantom towering over him.
“Times are changing, Scrooge. Do you dare to change with them? You are no longer in an age where everything can be completed by yourself. All you have to do is ask for help, Mr Scrooge, but will you? For if you don’t, it won’t just be Tiny Tim’s parcel that gets lost, it will be more. And that will be your ecommerce downfall!” explained the Ghost.
The third and final Ghost approached slowly and silently. As it gravitated nearer, this spirit scattered cheer and positivity throughout the room. All that was visible was the spirit’s smile from beneath its bright red garment – so bright it lit the room from its normal pitch black.
“Ghost of eCommerce Future!” exclaimed Scrooge. “I fear you more than any spectre. I know your purpose is to do me good, I am prepared to be in your company, and I do it with a thankful heart. Lead on, Spirit!”
The phantom moved away and Scrooge followed in the warm glow that emitted from its overflowing gown. Once again, Scrooge found himself in the middle of the city. The spirit stopped beside one little knot of shoppers who were drowned in bags of goodies. Scrooge saw that the spirit’s hand was pointed in their direction, so he advanced to listen to their talk.
“Well,” said one woman, “I don’t know much about it. I only know that Scrooge’s business has somehow become more popular than ever. We thought that, after what happened with Tiny Tim, there was no chance of his business surviving. If anything, it was Scrooge’s wake-up call.”
“When did this happen?” enquired another.
“Oh, it’s been coming for ages. Ever since Tiny Tim’s parcel was lost, Scrooge changed his ways and asked for a helping hand with his ecommerce business. Mr Scrooge finally realised he couldn’t do it all by himself.”
Another of the shoppers agreed by saying “Since Scrooge took on help, customer service skyrocketed, his reviews have been overflowing with compliments, and next-day delivery became just that: next-day delivery! So, I guess it goes to show – especially at this time of year – everyone can do with a helping hand.”
Scrooge stepped back. This was his future. The future of his ecommerce business, gaining more and more custom, receipts and invoices building, all because he listened to the Ghost of eCommerce Present and asked for online support to keep his customers happy.
Back in Scrooge’s room, the spirit pointed at the brand new laptop laid open upon Scrooge’s bed. The screen was as shiny as a new penny, the buttons untouched, and a full database of completed reports.
“Is mine the business that lies more successful than I could ever imagine?” Scrooge asked. “Oh spirit!” he exclaimed. “Hear me! If this is my future success then I will honour the change of my ecommerce heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will not shut out the lessons that the spirits teach.”
From these words, the Ghost of eCommerce Future shrank, collapsed, and dwindled out of sight.
“I will change my ecommerce ways,” Scrooge continued to repeat. “Better customer relationship management, platform integrations, faster delivery! Spirits, hear me: I will not go this ecommerce journey alone any longer!”
Scrooge swapped his usual crooked look for one that could almost pass for festive cheer. He grabbed the laptop and briskly typed away, updating his online systems. Scrooge was making this a Merry eCommerce Christmas after all.
Running to the window, he opened it and put out his head. Golden sunlight beaming through a heavenly sky. It was a glorious day, and as such, a glorious day to put stock control mishaps behind him. So, off he set to the small house on the corner. That’s right, Scrooge was on his way to see poor Tiny Tim with a parcel in hand.
Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more. And for the first time – in a very long time – Scrooge could feel his heart filling with happiness. Could it be due to real-time stock updates and having no more Tiny Tim mishaps? We have a good feeling about Scrooge’s ecommerce habits this Christmas. And so should you.
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