Here's the thing: I don't like malls. Call me germaphobic (or perhaps I've just seen one too many apocalyptic pandemic films for my own good), but being trapped indoors with a crowd breathing recycled air makes me feel like I'm a hop, skip and a viral cell away from the flu du jour. And while the hustle and bustle of holiday shoppers has a certain seasonal charm, watching overstressed, grown adults have public meltdowns and temper tantrums at the register generally puts a ding in my Christmas spirit. Thus I avoid the mall at all costs. Not just during the holidays, but every day. Last weekend, however, compelled by early onset Christmas spirit and a Klout perk Macy's gift card, I found myself circling the lot with the rest of the parking lot sharks. Before I headed in, I checked-in on Four Square, only to discover that Macy's was also offering a "special" (i.e. additional discounts) to anyone checked-in. With very little effort, I had earned myself significant savings - and Macy's planted a little love seed in my heart. As I stood in line waiting to checkout, I began thinking about how technology and social connectivity are not only influencing, but changing, the retail landscape.

I stumbled across this timely article on Monday. The author suggests that "Connectivity has shifted the balance of power to individual shoppers. The traditional ways that retailers and merchants reach out to users and how they expect them to discover, shop and pay are getting disrupted by mobile and social. And that’s forcing companies to react."

The article goes on to explain that almost half of all shoppers are coming to stores armed with smartphones, altering the ways we relate to and interact with retailers. Not only does the technology in our pockets give us instant access to product ratings and reviews, it gives us the ability to shop for a better deal with the click of a button - and decide whether that better deal is worth driving across town for.

The ways in which consumers are learning about products and services are shifting as well. In contrast to the days when people made decisions perusing store shelves and aisles, today we're arming ourselves with information - and so much more - by turning to our social networks. Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter and Square says consumers are learning about products through social connections on Twitter, by following their passions and interests.

When I reflect on several of my own recent purchases, it rings true. After my iPhone shattered, I went on the hunt for an indestructible case by throwing a question out to my Twitter followers. The name "Otterbox" was quickly Tweeted back by many. When I decided to invest in iPhone insurance, my social network (and their glowing recommendations) directed me to a company called SquareTrade. In these instances, my social network wasn't just influential in my purchase, it was integral.

So what does the future of consumer/retailer relationships look like? John Donohoe, CEO of eBay, says he expects more changes in the next three years in commerce than in the last 15.

As to be expected, Word of Mouth will continue to be an increasingly influential force when it comes to decision-making about which companies to support, which products to buy and where and how customers will spend their dollars.

The fact is that with mobile and social, consumers are much more savvy. They are equipped with the latest information and the latest prices whenever and wherever they go shopping. And with social channels, they are swayed by and discover products through their friends, not through ads.

How have you noticed retailers and service providers adapting to the increasing influence of social networks and Word of Mouth?