A generation ago, marketing pundits declared the advent of CRM and database marketing were technology’s answer to “how to bring back the personal service of the local, corner store.” Today’s rapid introduction of 3-D apps and personalized virtual sizing for web apparel sites is yet another attempt to replicate the ability to try things on in a store.

But there are many things that brick and mortar stores will always have over the virtual world – the power of “touch” as shoppers meander through the aisles, the ability to glance quickly in the mirror to see how the clothes look, and most important of all, the smile from the sales staff as they encourage the act of buying.

In our rush to embrace new technologies and new ways to communicate, it’s easy to forget some of the most precious assets that the original 3-D businesses have. Sadly, many companies are still struggling to figure out how to bring the virtual and real worlds together. There are amazing tools available today that make this very, very doable and allow firms to combine the best of both worlds. The next several years will likely see the most exciting creative explosion of our lives as media, offers, location, feedback, messaging all come together in virtually infinite ways. The data points that will result from all of the possibilities will likely be overwhelming for most everyone. That will place even more value on those rare people that can see through the clutter and identify those few, special insights that really matter.