As senior vice president of strategy and analytics at DICK’S Sporting Goods, Steve Miller oversees the retailer’s test-and-learn approach to understanding customers and strategizing improvements for how they shop.
When he thinks What the Future, he believes amazing personalized and seamless experiences across channels will drive where people shop.
Kate MacArthur: The pandemic has accelerated the move to digital shopping and “buy online, pick up in-store” (BOPIS). How might that change in the next three to five years?
Steve Miller: The future of omnichannel retail is certainly going to be about the customer experience—where having BOPIS and curbside pickup are now table stakes for every retailer. The way that we and others are going to differentiate is through bringing to bear tremendous expertise in-store, online, wherever the shopper wants to shop, then also providing amazing experiences across all of those channels.
MacArthur: What kinds of experiences?
Miller: One of the projects that we’re really excited about is our new DICK’S Sporting Goods stores in Victor, N.Y., and Knoxville, Tenn. These are going to be immersive stores that we’re opening up later this year. Each will be 100,000-square-foot stores with almost 20,000 square feet of playing field with a track right next to the store. It’s making it possible for you to come to a store and participate in a four-on-four soccer tournament or get fitted for a shoe using technology that allows you to run around a track. Or you can try out a new golf club in one of our several golf simulators or experience new fitness apparel or climb one of our climbing walls. We hope to be able to use these stores as test labs and apply learnings to the entire chain.
MacArthur: What differences from today can shoppers expect to see in the next few years?
Miller: Let’s take footwear. We envision showing that we understand our shoppers as soon as they walk into the store. What that might mean is if we know that you’re a size 7, when you come over to that footwear area, perhaps that size 7 is already selected on one of several tablets you can use. Then if there is a particular shoe you’re interested in that doesn’t have a size 7, we’re immediately going to offer you different ways to either request similar shoes, so you can try them on for fit, or place an order for the exact shoe. If we’ve got your stored payment information, we’re going to address that in a seamless way. It extends to our app as well.
MacArthur: Could we see this everywhere or only from certain retailers?
Miller: What we’ll end up seeing is a bifurcation between the retailers that are truly becoming consumer-centric and that can afford and are willing to invest in technology and in-store experience and those that simply won’t or can’t keep up. Some of this is structural based on the category of retail. But a lot of this is cultural as well. The pandemic has shown us that when retailers invest—not just in technology, but also in understanding their customers in a really deep way—they’ve tended to succeed.
MacArthur: What most shapes how a retailer or brand plans for these changes and how they’re going to invest?
Miller: Some segments of shoppers are true omnichannel shoppers, whereas others tend to do everything online and others tend to do everything in-store. We’ve seen a huge increase in the percent of our omnichannel shoppers as opposed to single-channel shoppers through the pandemic.
MacArthur: Our survey showed that if the coronavirus weren’t an issue, 39% of Americans prefer shopping in-store, 22% prefer online and 38% prefer both equally. What does that tell you?
Miller: The survey results make a lot of sense to us. We think that shopping should be fun. We think it should be experiential. And we also think it should be useful. But it begins truly with a great experience and with interacting with one of our teammates.
MacArthur: Our survey also showed that price and value still rule.
Miller: We totally agree that you have to have a good price/value relationship. But we also feel like more than just price-matching or making sure that you’ve got the same sale price as another retailer or a brand, there’s also value, right? So for us, that involved a little over a year ago launching our DSG brand, which offers great staples for everyday athletes, and investing in our other private brands for golf, women and outdoor. Looking ahead, we will make these brands even stronger by providing improved space in-store, increased marketing and expanding into additional product categories while still investing with key national brands.
In addition, we’ve recently opened a new store format that we call our Warehouse Sale stores where you get closeout pricing on athletic apparel and footwear. Our shoppers have responded incredibly well, and we’re attracting a new group of shoppers to those stores.
MacArthur: How can brands and retailers stay on top of rising consumer expectations?
Miller: The single largest expectation shift of the past several years has been in speed to home or speed to customer. And clearly that’s a place where several online-only retailers have set the bar. The next step is using the data that our shoppers have shared with us to personalize their experience. But also what kind of content they would like, whether it’s digital fitness classes to tips for maximizing their camping experience for the upcoming weekend.