Dick’s Sporting Items’ New Option to Share Knowledge and Handle Demand

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Dick’s Sporting Goods is leveraging its store investments to communicate product demand with suppliers in new ways and investing in machine learning models to predict store sales down to the SKU level.

The sporting goods retailer uses tablets equipped with inventory tracking technology it calls “Shoe Runner” in its stores. Consumers can scan a shoe on the tablet to see if the size is in stock; If they don’t, they have the choice of ordering them through their phone or looking at other shoes that are in stock in that size.

Insight into scanned shoes, inventory rates and conversion rates provides the ability to track unmet demand for the first time, and this information is transforming the conversation with its partners, said Steve Miller, Dick’s Sporting senior VP strategy, e-commerce and analytics Goods.

“Our suppliers found this very interesting when we spoke to them about making sure we don’t let this customer down.”

[First Look: Dick’s Sporting Goods’ House of Sport]

Dick’s boasts a customer database of about half the US adult population, Miller said on Shoptalk this week. The company had about $12 billion in revenue last year from about 30 million unique customers, with about 80% of its business coming from physical stores and 20% from digital. The company’s digital offerings are visited almost 1 billion times a year.

During the pandemic, Dick’s acquired more than 16 million new customers, most of whom were women, as well as being younger and more urban than its typical customers. As e-commerce has accelerated, the company’s stores now meet 70% of its e-commerce demand, and the company continues to see these stores as a key fulfillment method going forward.

“The difficult thing about using your stores as a fulfillment method is that you have to plan for both e-commerce demand and brick-and-mortar demand,” Miller noted. “To that end, we’ve invested significant time and money, building machine learning models for our merchandising team to accurately predict what in-store SKU sales will be for each product.”

The company has rolled out these features to a few categories and is optimistic about its progress in serving both physical retail and digital customers.

[See also: RIS News’ Store Experience Study]

The retailer is also optimistic about the opportunities offered by GameChanger, the youth sports scoring platform it owns. With 7 million users, GameChanger Dick’s data is enabling new ways to connect beyond just transactions. For example, they can not only recommend products when it’s time for new gear, but also offer training content when a player’s stats are suffering.

The insights are also used to predict demand. As youth sports resumed in certain areas of California but not others, the company used first-party data to ensure the right stores had the right inventory.

“It’s exciting for us,” Miller said. “We still have a lot of work to do to fully exploit these data assets, but being on site is very important for us.”