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Empowering the Retail Paradigm

Jason Williams, VP of Engineering, DICK’S Sporting Goods

In your opinion, how has the Retail landscape evolved over the years? What are some of the advantages of the current technological evolution?

Technology has been transforming the Retail landscape for years. At DICK’S, we’ve been focused not only on continually improving our e-Commerce and in-store technologies, but also we’ve invested significantly in our Distribution Centers and in integrating our digital and store channels to build a best-in-class omni-channel platform. We truly see our stores and our online experience as one integrated approach.

As we’ve seen recently, customers have responded very positively to the seamless, customized shopping experience enabled by our technology, like e-Commerce, BOPIS (buy online pickup in store), Contactless Curbside Pickup, our Scan-Pay-Play contactless checkout capability, and more. We expect the behaviors adopted by consumers during the pandemic will continue.

  We must stay close to our teammates and customers, and data is paramount; so we can keep a pulse on shifting consumer behaviors and preferences 

What, according to you, are some of the challenges plaguing the Retail landscape, and how can they be effectively mitigated?

At DICK’S, we are always working to “stay close” to continually changing consumer preferences. The industry is evolving rapidly, and we are working to always ensure our customers can shop our products where, when, and how they want.

While adhering to safety and social distancing requirements, we believe you must spend time engaging with customers and partners, listening to your sales staff, and talking to the product and technology teams. By prioritizing these conversations, you are able to find out what’s selling, learn where there are improvements to be made, discover new ideas or sources of inspiration, and ultimately determine how to use company resources (e.g., investments, technological innovations, marketing, and more) to ensure your business is always responsive to the needs and wants of your customers. Customers continue to navigate between online and in-store shopping and expect the experience to be seamless.

What are a few technological trends influencing the Retail sector today? What are some of the best practices businesses should adopt today to steer ahead of competitors?

Retail innovation requires consideration of the entire customer journey. Here are a few noteworthy trends we’re seeing:

Many new customers have joined DICK’S ecosystem through digital channels – and are becoming repeat customers because of the combination of our product selection, e-Commerce experience, and the speed and convenience of shipping. This includes a shift towards mobile commerce. Trends have shown us that shopping via mobile apps will continue to thrive in the future, as mobile commerce sales continue to rise each year.

• Second, we think that Curbside is here to stay. It started as a safety measure but has evolved into a convenient shopping feature, as customers really appreciate its ease and efficiency.

• Third, we still believe that the in-store experience is critical. As a true omni-channel retailer, the lines between our e-Commerce and in-store sales are becoming increasingly blurred, but both are essential and complementary parts of our business. There’s something about trying on (and smelling) a new baseball glove or swinging a golf club that makes it important to come visit a store, but these visits will be enhanced by innovative tech capabilities. [A good example of this is our ShoeRunner App – which is currently available in 200 of our stores that have a premium full-service footwear deck – where athletes can scan a shoe on our wall, select a size, and instantaneously find out if that shoe is in stock, creating a faster and more efficient shopping experience.]

• Finally, as we look to the future, we continue to believe the brick and mortar stores will play a key role in distribution. At DICK’S, our stores function as mini distribution centers, enabling us to fulfill online orders faster and more efficiently; this is because our stores are often physically closer to our athletes, allowing for faster shipping and delivery.

Do you have any advice for industry veterans or budding entrepreneurs from the Retail space?

We must stay close to our teammates and customers, and data is paramount; so we can keep a pulse on shifting consumer behaviors and preferences. And we must continually remain focused on adapting physical stores by investing in and embracing new technologies to meet changing digital behaviors.

Brands and companies should constantly be thinking about and responding to customer needs. Where do your customers spend their time – physically and online? How can you proactively interact with them? How can you create the best possible shopping experience? Remaining focused on our customers and our communities will allow us to nimbly evolve ourselves and our businesses, positioning us for continued growth and success in the future.

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