DICK’S Sporting Goods Poised to Continue its Successful Digital Transformation Journey

June 24, 2019 Derrick Harris

Hear more about DICK'S digital transformation journey and the future of retail in a cloud app world in their July 11 webinar

DICK’S Sporting Goods has faced its fair share of challenges over the past few years, stemming from the rise in e-commerce sales and the revamped shopping experience consumers have come to expect. However, despite this, DICK’S is flourishing online—evidenced by a 17 percent increase in e-commerce sales during its fiscal fourth quarter and their plan to add hundreds of developers to its team. 

The driving forces behind this transformation: DICK’S understanding of what customers expect from their merchants, and its commitment to deliver on those expectations by investing in software and processes. By bringing in the right talent and technologies, DICK’S can deliver the best possible customer experiences, both in-store and online. That includes a complete overhaul of its legacy e-commerce tools with software built in-house for store associates.


Since partnering and going live with Pivotal Cloud Foundry in May 2018, DICK’S has been able to implement a wide array of changes to help improve the customer experience and store associate productivity, all of which:

  • Reduce the time required to onboard new product teams and engineers from months to minutes.

  • Scale infrastructure to prepare for holiday traffic in seconds rather than weeks

  • Remove downtime and unnecessary latency—DICK’S was able to stay agile during the crucial holiday shopping period because it could identify and resolve issues immediately.

  • Make security patches automatically instead of requiring weeks of planning.

  • Increase its developer-to-operator ratio to 20:1, meaning significantly more resources are spent on building new features rather than on keeping them running.


You can get a good sense of the partnership and some early successes in these two videos from our 2018 SpringOne Platform conference:

From Black Friday to Christmas Day

The holiday shopping season—and the five days from Thanksgiving until Cyber Monday (referred to by U.S. retailers as “Cyber 5”), specifically—is crucial to the success of every online retailer. After all the marketing and unbeatable deals get shoppers to the site, it’s up to the technology team to make sure things run smoothly. Every millisecond matters for a seamless user experience. The first time a customer goes through the entire online checkout process, only to be told their items are out of stock, might be the last time they visit your site.


Planning For Success

Heading into the critical Cyber 5 period, DICK’S engaged with Pivotal in a two-week boot camp to ensure its platform was ready for the coming traffic spikes. DICK’S brought its years of experience and insights surrounding holiday traffic, which Pivotal, along with its customers, then used to plan for those scenarios in the context of PCF as well as how to troubleshoot any issues that might arise.

The result: DICK’S impressive holiday traffic levels, processing more than 1,000 orders per minute during peak times, and zero downtime for applications running on PCF.


A Focus On Customer Reliability Engineering

Beyond planning for heavy holiday traffic, DICK’S also benefited from an improved focus on Customer Reliability Engineering, accomplished by constantly monitoring and measuring its digital operations. Because no software is inherently perfect, measurability is a key component to cloud-native application design, and PCF is built to simplify the process of monitoring both the platform and the applications running on it.

“The maturation of our (CRE) practice was a huge portion of our online success this holiday season,” said DICK’S Director of Engineering JP White. “When things became unhealthy, we knew immediately versus our customers telling us about it.”


Homegrown Search That Excels

Search results are one of the more underappreciated, but critically important pieces of the online shopping experience. Leading up to Black Friday, DICK’S knew it was time to build an entirely new and more effective search service. Its new service, built on PCF and Elasticsearch, consistently served relevant results and kept up with real-time shifts in product availability, even at a time when inventory levels were constantly shifting.

Even more impressive, this new search engine was developed by a new product team that was only created in the latter half of 2018. White calls this “a huge victory,” not only technologically, but also in terms of mindset.

“We didn’t actually work directly with the Pivotal team on this one,” White said. “However, the confidence that we can build out our own stuff is a major shift for us.”


Buy-Online, Pickup In-Store Made More Efficient

Another important aspect of the new retail experience is buy-online, pickup in-store. This is an easy way to bring consumer gratification that even free two-day shipping can’t match. Shoppers are using stores as pickup points at record rates during the holiday season, especially those on a time crunch or placing orders too late for on-time delivery.

Anticipating the percentage of e-commerce orders placed for pickup in-store would skyrocket as the holiday grew closer, DICK’S wasted no time revamping elements of its buy-online, pickup in-store option and began running them on PCF. Now, store associates spend less time running around and picking pack slips because the experience is integrated into an app on the mobile devices they carry known as “MerchSearch.”


Putting The Power of Product Data in Associates’ Hands

Developed by its lean customer experience product team, “MerchSearch” was recently launched across all DICK’S stores nationwide. The new inventory software provides “in the moment” product information that all store associates can use to guide shoppers through their experience. The tool offers detailed descriptions of products, checks inventory in their store and across the omni-channel chain, and presents alternative products to provide as recommendations—all at the associate’s fingertips. Ease of use is also a key priority for all newly built technology at DICK’S as it helps attract new talent used to consumer technology products.

What’s more, the MerchSearch team continues to build on the application—delivering new features while iterating on existing ones—directed by fast feedback loops with associates and customers in the stores.


The Next Chapter in the Digital Transformation journey

DICK’S greatly benefited from planning for holiday traffic and making sure certain applications were running on PCF during the holiday shopping rush; however, their work is far from done.

The primary goal of its digital transformation is a better customer experience and better fiscal performance year-round. DICK’S Vice President of Customer Technology Jason Williams summed it up during his keynote at Pivotal’s SpringOne Platform conference in September 2018, highlighting technological and business wins DICK’S had experienced just nine months into its relationship with Pivotal:

“We no longer wanted to pin ourselves to techniques, but rather outcomes. There are three main goals that we have as a part of this journey. One is we want to create happy humans. So we want our customers, who we refer to athletes, and our associates to be happy. We want to build solutions that work for them. We also want technology that works, that’s maintainable, scalable—something that we can support moving forward and add on to… We think that by focusing on our athletes and customers, we can achieve economic value.”

About the Author

Derrick Harris

Derrick Harris is a product marketing manager at VMware.

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