SCHEELS has come a long way since its beginning as a small hardware store in 1902. In order to undergo such a great transformation, SCHEELS had to be willing to adapt with the times.
In 1980, this meant transitioning a store in Sioux Falls into an all sporting goods store. More recently, it has meant improving the online experience for their customers. In a short period of time, the E-Commerce team at SCHEELS has made big strides. We sat down to learn more from a few of their key members.
Ray Hauge, E-Commerce Technical Leader
What is your role as E-Commerce Technical Leader?
My goal is to use technology to help our team and improve our customers’ experiences. That can range from solving little issues all the way to planning what technology we need to have in place in the next few years. I have an amazing team of designers and developers bringing new ideas to the table and collaborating to make those ideas a reality. We obviously work on the website, but we’ve also built our own software to help fill the site with products, organize the fulfillment of orders and a few other things as well.
With over a decade at SCHEELS, how have you seen the focus on e-commerce shift from something that was perhaps secondary to something that is increasingly important?
We started small, and that was a conscious decision. Selling products online is very different from selling them in a store, and we knew there was going to be a learning curve. You can’t just take a shirt and sell it online — we had to figure out how to have product images and information come together and stay organized. We also had to figure out everything from boxes to packaging to the logistics of getting products to customers quickly.
As we grew, our reputation within SCHEELS grew as well which created the opportunity to implement our Pickup In Store process. Integrating scheels.com with our stores was a huge turning point. Now we coordinate daily with our stores and provide a cohesive, best-in-class experience for our customers.
In the beginning SCHEELS’ website was used solely for providing information. Can you take me back to that first shift away from just supplying content? What was that like?
It was a wild time! SCHEELS had more than 100 years of experience in the retail industry, but now we had the goal of translating our amazing in-store experience into a matching online presence. We started as a small team, and knew it would take time to perform online as well as we do it in our stores. It was a big change in our processes, and we had to figure it out along the way especially since there is a lot more technology behind a retail website than most people realize. There were simple things, like how we group products together on the site, to more difficult pieces like organizing the process of shipping orders from our many stores. We all knew scheels.com would be an important part of the company and we were excited to be a part of that journey.
Further along the line, what was your role in expanding the site to site to a full-fledged retail experience? Did it seem crazy at the time the company started to transition?
When I first started as a programmer it was a much smaller team, and that meant wearing a lot of hats. My first Christmas season I rummaged through boxes of socks to ship out. Having that hands-on experience was vital to understand where the opportunities for technology were in our processes. There was a point where I knew we wouldn’t be able to get the level of work necessary to grow, done in the next year if we didn’t make a change. I worked with our fulfillment team to create the early version of our order management system to streamline the process. As the site continued to grow, we reached a point where we needed to migrate to a better website platform. To support the transition from one system to another, my team worked with our merchandisers to create a Product Information Manager to transition our existing products and streamline the process of adding new products to the site. It’s the development of these custom technologies that have created a foundation allowing us to quickly adjust to changes when they come up.
Honestly, each year seems crazier than the last, but once the dust settles after Christmas, it’s a fulfilling experience to look back at what we were able to accomplish.
Nikki Fjerstad, E-Commerce Sales Leader
What is your role as E-commerce Sales Leader/Soft Goods Merchandising Leader?
Our goal is to grow Sales, Cash, and Margin for our specialty shops through the digital channels. My direct supervision is for all things Clothing and Footwear.
Our merchandising team as a whole has to do everything from getting 1 single product item on the website by gathering content, imagery, video’s, etc. and then now that we have it on, how do we sell it? So we work with other members of Ecommerce and Marketing to message it and get it in front of our customers through the proper digital channels that work for that specific customer and their shopping patterns.
In your 16 years with the company, SCHEELS e-commerce efforts have evolved from a small team to a department of 60+, why has that move been important and how has it helped you and the team?
A lot of us have come from existing SCHEELS stores so we’ve grown to know and continue to lead the culture of SCHEELS but expanding our Ecommerce team with new hires from outside the organization with experience has been instrumental in our growth as well; whether in creating an analytics team and studying the results, to what is the smartest design for a mobile experience, to writing unique content for SEO, or building out an internal development team that allows us to make changes as needed, or making sure we mimic our stores with the BEST customer service experience our customers have known to love and expect, and while fulfilling shipments within 2 days! Every new role and hire has helped us move forward at a much faster pace!
Since the creation of the e-commerce department, it seems like things have picked up rather quickly as far as the company offering more user-friendly features and pickup options on the site, how has this helped to push the company forward?
Yeah this growth has been amazing and it’s so fun to get to be a part of our company! We’ve been a brick and mortar business for so long, and we will continue to be, but adding more support and exposure to e-commerce will be instrumental as that’s just the new norm in terms of where the customer is starting their shopping journey now.
In terms of making the user experience smooth, that is extremely important and we’re lucky to have an internal development/UX team that is amazing and understands the importance of pace and how quickly we need to develop features for the way shopping habits are changing.
What sets SCHEELS’ culture apart?
Empowerment and passion. No matter the role, the level, or the tenure. We have always taught our employees to be empowered with what they are doing since we hired them for that exact role. And if you’ve met any other SCHEELS employees you will see what I mean when I say passionate. Whether it’s passion about fishing products, passion for teaching, passion for email design, every role at SCHEELS requires Passion and we hire with that in mind!
Nathan Enderle, E-Commerce Analytics/Digital Marketing Leader
What is your role as E-Commerce Analytics/Digital Marketing Leader?
My role at SCHEELS is to help lead our Ecommerce team to find ways to drive more customers to Scheels.com and to help our teams understand how customers are using Scheels.com. We can track how customers are getting to the website, what they are looking at and searching for on the site and also see where they are running into roadblocks or having problems. We all then work collectively to use this information to improve the online experience for our customers.
I know you have quite a bit of industry experience, what did you see upon coming to SCHEELS? How did that outside perspective help you?
Over my past 12 years in this field, I’ve had the opportunity to help build a few different company’s digital experiences and optimize their marketing channels to grow their sales. When the opportunity came up to work at SCHEELS I knew there was a big opportunity to grow their digital presence and experience from my own and other’s experiences that came up in discussions with close friends.
As a regular SCHEELS customer I wouldn’t use the website as I found it very difficult to use and knowing what capabilities existed I was probably harder on the website than most. I also had a really good friend who grew up in Fargo and she loved SCHEELS but when she moved away and didn’t have a SCHEELS close, she also found the website frustrating to use and would tell me that I should work at SCHEELS and improve their website almost every time we saw each other.
My outside perspective helped me understand that there was a lot of opportunity ahead for SCHEELS. I had seen different things work in different industries from my experience and knew that not everything that worked prior would work for SCHEELS as the industry continues to evolve quickly, but the company values and culture at SCHEELS made it evident that the team was committed to building an experience that complimented the in-store experience.
Can you talk to me a little bit about the importance of BOPIS/Curbside and omni-channel experience?
Over the past 10 years you have seen a big shift in technology to make things more convenient for people and shopping experiences have changed as well. It’s really fun to go to SCHEELS and spend time there riding the ferris wheel, grabbing lunch at Ginna’s Cafe or seeing the attractions but customers don’t always have that time available to them when a need arises. That is the reason we have prioritized improving the omni-channel experience over the past couple of years.
Your son or daughter might need a new hockey stick before their practice that night or a couple ice fishing items before you head out to the lake and that’s where we’ve worked hard to provide a great experience no matter how you choose to get those items.
We’ve made it easier to know what products are at your local SCHEELS with store availability filtering when searching for products. We have SCHEELS experts available via email, phone or chat to help answer any questions you may have. And last but not least we give you the opportunity to order it online and we’ll bring it out to your car with curbside pick up for those last minute needs. Our customer’s time is valuable and so we’re continuing to look at ways to provide the same great experience customers have grown to love in our stores in ways that suit the customer’s new preferred shopping methods.
How have you helped in that implementation process?
Providing these new options for our customers has really been a testament of the entire SCHEELS team coming together and accomplishing the goal. Our ecommerce team has made the ordering process easier online and our email team has done a great job of making sure customers are notified along each step of the process so they are informed of when they can pick up that item.
But then that continued on to our IT department and in-store teams finding the right plan for getting those items picked and ready to be picked up as quickly as possible. Our goal was to have them ready in two hours or less but many times those items are ready in 30 minutes or less! It really took a team effort from all areas of our company to ensure customers using this new option were giving an experience that matched the same great service they have come to expect from SCHEELS.