Service Design for Dick's Sporting Goods' In-Store & Teammates experience


Service Designer


Dick's Sporting Goods

Team Size



6 Weeks

Analyze the current product-service system (PSS) of Dick's Sporting Goods and conduct research to identify unmet or underserved needs of existing or new customers, employees, partners, and other stakeholders. Use the research to design a service using service design tools, methods, and practices to conceive, design, and test the service.

As a Product Manager + Service Designer i have conducted research on current services and upcoming services like Store Mode and proposed a service that reduce low value interactions that athletes (consumers) have with teammates and increase high value interactions that can increases net sales by atleast 1.2%.



The challenge is to proceed to find an opportunity, without a predefined problem statement. The service proposition should have a component of in-store experience and the value it can bring to DSG.

In order to discover the unmet needs in current services and opportunities, we have come up with the plan as follows:

  • Research current product service ecosystem of Dick's Sporting Goods
  • In-Store experiential research with contextual inquiries and interviewing teammates
  • Define personas and map journeys
  • Map service blueprint
  • Generate insights based on personas and observe opportunities
  • Scope the focus area and generate a hypothesis
  • Service Proposition
  • Critique and feedback
  • Refined proposition
  • Prototyping and testing
  • High fidelity mockups, poster and video for pitching
  • Final Pitch


As a designer, when there is a need to identify unmet needs in a Product Service System, my first step is to conduct a discovery as a believer in design thinking and follow double diamond framework as we proceed to define a service.

DSG has stores in 800 locations and 90% of its sales are from in-store. It has rich partnerships within the sports area and has sponsored many sports teams, events, stadiums, and programs. Meanwhile, it has maintained important relationships with 100+ other sports brands.
Prior to conducting our intercept interviews at Dick’s Sporting Goods, we entered as customers in order to experience shopping at Dick’s firsthand. We went to the shoes section of the store and waited for an employee to approach us and ask us if we needed help. One team member described broadly what they were looking for, and another took notes on the interaction.

Our goal was to understand any needs or frustrations that a customer might have have, that we couldn’t outwardly observe. We noticed that the although the employee was very nice, they moved a little fast, and we felt rushed through the process of finding the shoes we were looking for. They also seemed to expect us to know exactly what we were looking for, which wasn’t necessarily true. We also used some of the digital features available throughout this section to customers, like the kiosk on the right which connected customers with an employee who could pull a pair of shoes for them when they found one they wanted to try on.
To better understand the problem space, we conducted intercept interviews at Dick’s Sporting Goods in McCandless, PA. Two group members interviewed employees, two group members interviewed customers, and two group members observed frontstage and backstage processes. Our goal was to uncover employee and customer motivations and pain points.

We utilized our research protocol and attempted to dig beyond surface questions depending on customer/employee answers. When interviewing customers, we tried to get a diverse sample size. We interviewed 12 customers and 5 employees.
Later we mapped customer journeys based on the contextual inquiries we have performed at the store.
With the research notes, customer journeys and service blueprint documented, we have proceeded to map an affinity diagram with notes from all the observations in research to derive insights that can help us in narrowing down focus areas in customer journey and service blueprint.
  • Employee-only designated tasks does not provide enough opportunities for customer co-creation.
    Employees have to constantly visit back store to check warranties, similar products or different size of a product which leaves less time for employee-customer interaction.
  • There is inconsistency in employee skills between stores.
    Different ambassadors have different levels of expertise in different stores. Good training, but few experts in smaller stores.
  • Instore products are categorized based on brand or purpose, yet customers need help locating products.
    Employees have to delegate their time to help the customers find the products. Customers rely on employee knowledge when finding a pair of shoes for a specific sports.
  • Inconsistency between online/in store product information.
    Customers also face challenge with the availability of product within the store, even though it sometimes shows available on website. (Guerrilla Research)
  • Customers value employee interaction and knowledge, but employees are not always available.
    • Employees have to delegate their time between behind-the-scenes responsibilities and customer service.
    • Customers will come back to the store just to see their favorite employee.
    • Customers rely on employee knowledge when starting a new sport
  • Some customers do not trust that employees have enough knowledge about specific sport/training.
    Customers are self-reliant and prefer to spend some time comparing products themselves.
  • Lack of engagement, stimulation, and entertainment for children in the store.
    Through observation, we noticed that children with families and parents/guardians wandered around and looked bored. The only “entertainment” seemed to be the foosball table and a section with sports balls. This directly contrasts with the adults we spoke to, who had fond memories as children of playing in Dick’s while their parents shopped.
  • Customers have a long-term relationship with Dick’s (20+ years) and associate the store with fond childhood memories.
    Through Guerrilla research, we saw a pattern of customers who had been aware of or shopped at Dick’s since a young age
    • Woman remembered running around the track while parents shopped
    • Used to “wander inside” when Dick’s was in malls
  • The post-shopping experience is cumbersome for employees.
    Many processes, like returning and equipment services, are manual for employees. Some customers prefer to order online and return in-store because it’s easier than shipping.
  • Customers value immersive shopping experience, but in-store trials are not available for every sport.
    In-store trial arenas such as mini golf park are available for limited sports. There are not enough ways for employees to get feedback about their work quickly.


After diverging our scope during discovery, we later converged to understand what is the right area of service in the current Product Service System to focus. The insights in the previous phase shows that there is an opportunity to improve in the Inquire/Engage phase in the service system. Hence we decided to focus on that and create a service proposition.

The research shows an opportunity to create value for Dick’s Sporting Goods and their athletes by connecting teammates across stores and displaying product information.
Allow athletes to talk with teammates and view product information in-store through an interactive assistant that connects teammates within a certain mile radius.

With our initial proposition we have pitched it to stakeholders at DSG to get a validation and reflect ourselves throughout the process so far. Interactions with teammates are considered high value and it is risky to drive more athleted towards high value interactions

We need to understand high-value interaction further and encourage athletes to have more domain-specific conversations with teammates. We need to also scope down our target athletes.

We want to:
  • Explore value in an interaction from both the athlete and teammates’ perspective
  • Find middle ground between a totally virtual experience and the in-person experience
  • Divide our design/solution into multiple parts to manage the scope

  • Our new How Might We’s:
  • HMW establish teammate credibility within athletes
  • HMW encourage athletes to visit in store
  • HMW create more opportunities for high-value interaction between teammates and athletes

  • To answer these, we have visited the store again and performed contextual inquiries with the teammates to understand the time spent in high value and low value interactions. Based on the new insights we formed a new hypothesis on the service.

    The research shows an opportunity to create value for Dick’s Sporting Goods and their athletes by turning low-value interactions into high-value interactions through an in-store notification feature in the mobile app.
    Improve in-store experience using DSG's new in-store mode to notify personalised recommendations, self serve athletes with product information and encourage to have conversations with teammate if an expert help is required.

    With the pivoted idea, we are able to empower customers to self-serve product information and motivate them to start valuable conversations with teammates. This idea also taps into Dick’s current system.


    After defining the service proposition, as we enter the solution space in the double diamond, we proceeded to develop ideas to deliver the service. We diverged again to map all the possible user flows through the service, and which ones are important to address as part of this service proposition, where athletes can have low value or high value interactions in the store.
    We have brainstormed rapidly what are all the possible high value conversations and low value converstations that can be addressed with the service in different scenarios.

    Based on the scenarios, we empathized with the users and mapped all the possible user flows in the store and mapped it out, to observe the painpoints and opporuntities associated with these journeys.
    After that, we came up with the customer journey with different use cases and identified appropriate contexts for certain notifications to pop up without annoying customers.

    The typical customer journey can be broken down in 6 steps - from looking for deals to comparing similar products and at every step customer looks up to a teammate for an answer. But with this service, customers are our new co creators- they can handle 5/6 tasks on their own, allowing the teammate to focus on the customers that need expert guidance. According to the concepts studied in service design, the service will be Dematerializing the current customer journey and Rebundle for self-sufficiency.


    After deciding on focus areas in the service proposition, we proceeded to final stage in "how to do the service right". Which is delivering the service with prototype, testing it with users to make sure the service delivered is delivering value as expected.
    After receiving client feedback and refining our proposition, our next steps were to prototype and test the idea. Based on the customer journey, we came up with the following screens:
    1. A lock screen where we push customers welcome notifications and check-in notifications
    2. A map interface with personalized recommendations
    3. A detail page with basic information about product, and meanwhile get recommendations for teammates with expertise.
    4. Search result to display product location
    5. Route page to provide navigation
    6. Scan page

    We created a paper prototype of our solution and recruited 6 participants of various backgrounds. Three participants were current DSG customers and three were not. To conduct the test, we turned the MHCI lab into a pseudo-sporting goods store by hanging product pictures on the walls.

    We wanted to answer the following questions:
    1. Will users have a positive or negative reaction to in-store notifications?
    2. Will users feel comfortable with DSG accessing their location?
    3. Will our solution encourage high-value conversations?

    We instructed the participants to think-aloud while using the paper prototype phone as we manually sent them notifications and updated their screens. Participants were told to find out more information on running shoes before purchasing them. Within our team, we delegated the following roles: test runner, note taker, screen-changer, teammate. We followed testing with a short interview. After running the tests, we debriefed to share results and discuss next steps.
    Content of Notification plays a key role- During the testing we realised that customer are more prone to opening a notification if it is personalized to them.
  • Instead of simple welcome message, It could be about latest deals/offers in the store.
  • It could also be about discounts on similar products based on purchase history.
  • Addressing low quality interaction using self serve- Our majority users were happy with the product details they were shown post product scan. These details includes product availability, variants, color and Aisle number.
  • Use of store layout map- This feature turned out to be very useful for the users. Although the route to specific section could be displayed better.
  • Section based Notifications- Users preferred notifications about the products from their abandoned shopping cart at specific sections.
  • Talk to Expert- Users only reached out to Teammates/Experts when they wanted to try out a product or had specific questions about the product.
  • Privacy concern- At first , a lot of users were not very comfortable with sharing their location information with DSG. But once they started getting more personalized information at various sections, they felt it saves their time.
  • One way to to address this concern could be to put a face behind these notifications
  • Reviews- Users were also interested to explore online reviews for each product. We an add this information in our product page in the app.
  • We have also branded this new service as "Captain Dick's" which falls under the same umbrella of DSG's current vocabulary, like consumers being called athletes and associated being called as teammates. It also adds quirkiness and the broad scope of this service could slowly lead the in-store + digital experience.
    We have also created a video to explain the value this service adds in the current product service ecosystem of DSG.

  • Net increase in sales by 1.2% for DSG due to recommendations in in-store mode.
  • Increase in app adaption and increasing both in-store and digital experience by merging them.