Service Innovation
for Dick’s Sporting Goods:

Designing an equipment exchange space for novice athletes

Who is Dick’s Sporting Goods?

Dick’s Sporting Goods is the largest sporting goods retailer in the United States. Founded by Richard Dick Stack in 1948, the company has approximately 854 stores and 50,100 employees.

DSG offers a wide range of sports equipment, apparel, footwear, and accessories through a blend of associates, in-store services, and unique specialty shop-in-shops.

In fall 2022, DSG collaborated with Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University and presented their current challenge.

Our team

We are a student team designing innovative service for DSG. Starting in October 2021, we spent 5 weeks researching, analyzing, prototyping, testing, and refining our solution to DSG’s challenge.

My role

Customer and product research:

I conducted user research using surveys, interviews, and Guerilla research to transform the service’s blind-spot and customers’ pain-point into insights powering our innovation.

Analysis and modeling:

I performed statistical tests and analysis on our gathered user data, and built multiple service design models to conceptualize our findings.

Visual design and delivery:

I created poster and presentation designs that visualize our message and narratives, maintaining consistency in our different delivery approaches.

The Challenge

Imagine this...

Jack recently got into tennis and wanted to buy his first racket. He first went online and was instantly dazzled by the myriad options ranging from 30 bucks to 400 dollars.

“Maybe if I go to a store in person, I can ask someone and try it out”

However, when Jack actually arrived at the store, he was only to see tons of rackets sealed up and hanging high on the shelves. And the employees seemed to know even less about Tennis rackets than he did.
This is the challenge Dick’s Sporting Good and millions of its customers face everyday: lacking of information to find the right equipment.

Exploring touch points
The Research Process

During our first meeting, our client representative pointed out that most of their retail positions are part-time employees with a high turnover rate. The client also mentioned their use of new technology in team and inventory management, as well as online and offline integration.


Based our client’s goals and needs, we took a very hands-on approach when understanding the problems space for Dick’s Sporting goods. By visiting retail locations of DSG and signing up for Scorecard memberships online, we became one of DSG’s customers to familiarize ourselves with the brand and the in-store experience.

Guerilla Research

We talked to the Head Coach as well as several Teammates at the store to learn more about their experiences and how Athletes usually interact with them. From there, we are able to pinpoint some surface-level issues that the in-store experience might have.

Informal Research

To grasp a general idea of where DSG’s strategy is going, we looked at annual reports, business news articles, and financial data to further prove our assumptions of why certain business decisions are the way it is.


From our research, we generated multiple insights regarding DSG’s online and in-person shopping experience and narrowed down to arrive at two major conclusions


The high turnover rate leads to employee’s low product knowledge and customer engagement, making it difficult for customers to receive professional consultation in store.


Even with online options available, customers still actively engage in-store services, especially equipment try-out, customization and repair.


Customers are not satisfied with their try-out experience because of limited fitting room space and the nature of some sport equipment.

Even though we have done substantial research on DSG’s online service and technology implementation, reflecting on the client’s main goals and customers’ primary needs, we realized that DSG’s greatest advantages lie in their comprehensive in-store experience and we wanted to dig deeper.

Our main challenge is with the function of current experiential showroom: customers are not able to get sufficient information in-store.

To deliver the information needed to make a purchase, the traditional approach would be through the employees. However, considering that most of DSG’s retail employees work part time and have a high turnover rate, investing too much time in professional induction training would not be cost-efficient. Another approach is building an online platform for potential inquiries. Still, information would no longer be dynamic and personalized, and we risk breaking the user flow and diverting customers' attention from the in-store experience.

Generally, the product itself already carries abundant information but DSG’s case is rather unique: the nature of sports equipment makes it impossible for customers to experience the full performance of the product in a short time. Since the selection of sporting goods is a long-term process of trail and error, it is essential to give customers enough space to make their decision. In the mean time, we want to utilize the local athletic community by inviting coaches or any other professionals of diverse sports to provide specialized consultation in-store.

Trial and Error
Ideating and iterations

To formulate our service innovation ,the first step is to narrow down the target audience. We started with analyzing DSG’s current customers and were able to categorize them into three groups. We realized this category of behavior also applied to the different expertise of the athletes.

Since the purchase intentions of the first and third groups are relatively predetermined, the in-store shopping experience would have a limited effect on them. The second group, including most athletes at the beginner, intermediate, and recreational levels, has the willingness to make a purchase but is constrained by their knowledge.
The second group has the highest chance of investing time to visiting stores to mitigate the uncertain feeling they have towards the new sport, making the in-store assistance a key factor to improve its customer conversion rate.

To fully emphasize with our target audience, we looked at the journey of novice athletes, starting from inspiration to becoming an avid player, and found out where DSG comes in. Athletes who are at that stage of their journey have diverse needs, especially the need for less commitment because they lack the confidence to be firm about their purchase decision.

In order to meet those needs, we defined three main aspects to focus on a target audience, what they look for in Dick’s, and the main pain point


“Customers who recently started playing a sport value Dick’s wide range of selections in sport equipment but lack the opportunities to try them out before making a purchase decision.”

But how do we provide them the opportunity? Looking at DSG’s existing services, their equipment rental page caught our attention. If we allow the customers to rent the equipment before purchase, them will have time and space for a thorough tryout. When it comes to finding the equipment, we thought of the experienced athletes: they are the resource we previously overlooked, who have both unwanted equipment and expertise.

Equipment Library: Alpha Version

The equipment library is where novice athletes can try different equipment, and borrow them from Dick’s before committing to any sports or equipment purchase. In the meantime expert consultation will be offered to assist athletes in renting the right equipment. The equipment at the library will actually be the donations from other athletes, cutting the cost to run the service and at the same time giving other athletes a chance to co-create the experience.

Equipment Library: Client Feedback

After reviewing the alpha version of equipment library, our client expressed concerns in incentivizing experienced athletes to donate and local coaches to participate. Through interviews with coaches and surveys with active athletes, we realized that providing motivation for professionals to participate in consultation would be impractical given their schedule and interests. We would have to rethink our service model and make a trade-off.

The solution
Final Service Innovation

We decided to replace expertise provided by professionals with that of DSG’s experience athletes customers, who will also leave information notes about their experience with the equipment, which the novice athletes will refer to when they choose their equipment at the library. The notes will connect the experienced with the novice by making the donations something more than just an equipment, but the experience of the expert athletes.

Through our service, 3 big values will be created for athletes and DSG. First is being cost conscious. For athletes, it lowers the economic barrier of starting a new sport, while for DSG, the secondhand aspect lowers the cost compared to lending new inventories. We also engender the sense of community building. The novice and experienced athletes will form a connection and these connections will create more bond between DSG’s customers. And the service centers around the idea of upcycling sports equipment which adds sustainability as our last, but definitely not the least important value we hope to deliver with our service.


Even though this is not my first time completing the design process for innovation, it is still a refreshing experience for me. When most of my previous designs focused on programs and mobile devices, working with Dick’s Sporting Goods allowed me to look into an unfamiliar field and transform the traditional service industry with new design concepts I learned. Through customer journey maps and service blueprints, we unbundled, rebundled, and liquified the service to find room for creativity; and through data synthesizing and iterative prototyping, we arrived at our innovation, which also innovated my way of thinking. I revisited my major Human-Computer Interaction, and realized that, in many cases, I paid too much attention to the transforming computers and technologies, thus ignoring the importance of people in a service. A good service is co-created by users, and a good design should have the primary focus on us, the humans.

PrototypeFinal DesignREFLECTIONS