Digital Retail Lessons from the Cold Weather Super Bowl

As we look back on the first-ever outdoor cold weather Super Bowl, there are several lessons digital retailers can take away from how the NFL, Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks all prepared for what many said was an impossible or foolish undertaking. Some of the same steps these entities took to ensure a successful experience playing the Super Bowl is subfreezing conditions apply to retailers ensuring a successful digital experience for their customers, regardless of naysayers.

Flexibility Keeps Things Running
While the weather cooperated enough to allow the Super Bowl to be played on the scheduled Sunday, Feb. 2 date, the NFL used flexible scheduling to ensure catastrophic weather on that day would not cancel the entire game. The NFL had the option of playing the Super Bowl on any day between Friday, Jan. 31 and Monday, Feb. 3. Some purists scoffed at the notion of a Super Bowl being played on a day other than Sunday, but this flexibility ensured the fans would get a game.

Similarly, digital retailers must be flexible enough to provide customers with their desired experience, regardless of the circumstances. A seamless retail strategy must account for feature phones as well as smartphones, and be accessible from every tablet operating system, desktop PCs and any other point the customer chooses, including the physical store. Otherwise, potentially valuable customers will be shut out the way football fans could have been shut out of a Super Bowl had the NFL not built flexibility into the schedule.

Adapt Your Strategy to the Climate
While press deadlines prevent me from commenting on the actual play of the game, suffice it to say both teams at least prepared game plans heavily dependent on running, which generally works much better than passing in bad weather. They adapted their strategy to the climate.

Digital retailers must take the same realistic and adaptive approach to their seamless retailing strategies. “Climate” in this case can include actual weather conditions, as well as other variables such as customer demographics, broader social trends, and any other external influencers on how you digitally engage customers. An unexpected bout of poor weather may necessitate the ability for an apparel retailer to make real-time pricing adjustments to warm-weather clothing, or a move to an area with a new customer demographic may require a shift in how customers are presented with online incentives for in-store shopping.

Realize Your Intrinsic Value
While many pundits, including a number of former NFL players, made a lot of noise about how “stupid” the idea of playing the Super Bowl outdoors in cold weather was, the fact remains that it still holds huge value for advertisers and fans. The weather had no impact on the NFL’s ability to charge exorbitant sums for TV coverage rights, TV ads, and tickets. When something has a strong enough intrinsic value to the consumer, that value will sustain itself through any platform.

Digital retailers need to remember that their seamless retailing strategies should build upon the strengths of the intrinsic value of their brand, products or services. Even if a retailer sells a product that does not easily translate into the digital realm (such as food), channels such as mobile and social can still promote their brand value and boost profits by driving customers to stores without diluting their strengths in traditional channels.


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