In our first in a series of posts detailing 2012 predictions, we introduced you to a broad (and bold) forecast that “social” would “go away” in the year ahead. Of course, we didn’t mean that social media would disappear, but that the use of “social” (and “e-” and “digital” and “online”) will soon be irrelevant as customers increasingly assume that businesses who really want their business will simply communicate with them on their terms…whatever the channel.

A major transformation has occurred – thanks to a more consumer-driven marketplace intersecting with incredible innovation in mobile platforms – where successful brands no longer wait for customers to walk through their stores. They are bringing the store to the customer via mobile devices and applications, through which they can capture customer attention at key points during the purchasing decision process. Social brand recommendations, product searches and comparison shopping are taking place on devices while shoppers are on-site, and whether it’s retail or e-tail is insignificant to the end result.

Consider what happened less than two weeks ago, on Black Friday. When IBM projected that 15% of Black Friday online sales this year would transact via mobile, many analysts, bloggers and naive retailers dismissed it. But mobile sales as a percentage of overall e-commerce transactions tracked just as IBM predicted. The most astute retailers had courted mobile shoppers with exclusive updates and offers leading up to the day and revealed the enormous potential for businesses to increase their revenue, customer reach and even loyalty through social and mobile marketing and sales. And the most astute Black Friday retailers sent satisfaction surveys to their mobile customers on Saturday, to ensure continual improvement and simply say “Thanks for your business.”

And for all of the benefits to retailers, mobile devices and applications pull double duty as a retailer’s ultimate customer service tools. They connect brands to customers when and where they most crave information and interaction. And by proactively funneling customers incentives and information via mobile, retailers will win the loyalty of customers by delivering a hyper-intuitive, seamless and immediately gratifying shopping experience.

Strip away the shiny veneer of “mobile,” “social” and “online” and you’re left with the fact that these channels are merely simplifying, accelerating and amplifying things that smart businesses and savvy customers have always done. In 2012, winning retail businesses will offer customers mobile options because – quite frankly –it’s what customers want. From now on, winning marketers will agree that a store is…wherever the customer says it is.

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