Scheels thrives in brick-and-mortar retailing by offering top-notch customer service using Chrome

Editor's note: Today we speak with Josh Diemert, lead systems administrator for Scheels, a 26-location sporting-goods chain with stores in 11 states.

Scheels, an employee-owned, privately held business with more than 6,000 employees, has a long history of adapting to changing times. Founded in 1902 as a small hardware and general merchandise store in Sabin, Minnesota, it added sporting goods in 1954, athletic clothing in 1972, and eventually grew into an all-sports chain. In this interview, we see how the company continues to adapt today, using Chrome to deliver better service to its customers with expert advice.

Why is technology important to Scheels?

We aim to understand our customers and give them personal attention and local information. We’ve taken the in-store experience to a new level by leveraging technology to make shopping fun, while at the same time empowering our sales team to deliver a better quality of service.

How has Chrome helped?

Chrome has dramatically improved our digital signage. We use Chromebits to power digital signs in key parts of the business, like our fishing shops. The signs display information on nearby river conditions and advice on the latest equipment and local fishing techniques. They’re incredibly popular features that have helped build customer loyalty.

Given the success of our digital signage, it made sense to use Chrome for our in-store kiosks. The kiosks allow customers to order items that aren’t available in their local store. It’s the best of both worlds: hands-on advice from a local professional and access to the large inventory of an online retailer.

Our sales team also uses Chromebooks to streamline the customer workflow. Some purchases require background checks and a lot of paperwork, but Chromebooks makes it easy and more efficient to fill out the required forms. The technology also puts the right information at our employees’ fingertips, helping them provide better on-the-spot advice to our customers.

How did you get started with Chrome?

About three years ago we transitioned to Google Apps with the help of Google Apps Premier Partner Agosto. We purchased our licensing through them. They also gave us guidance on migrating our data out of Lotus Notes and into Google Apps, and showed us the benefits of Chromebooks over the legacy machines we were using. When we saw the difference, we decided to try Chrome for digital signage, kiosks and our sales staff.

What other kinds of benefits have you gotten from Chrome?

Before Chrome, it was a pain to get digital signs working — it could take a week or more to set up our legacy hardware. With Chromebits, it takes ten minutes to set up a digital sign, and we can manage them all from one location. This saves valuable time for our IT department.

We’ve also saved money. We were considering Windows laptops for our sales associates, but by choosing Chromebooks we’re saving $200 per laptop.

Overall, the biggest benefit has been giving our customers the attention they deserve, whether by offering local information, access to a larger range of products through our in-store kiosks, or making the customer workflow process easy with Chromebooks. We pride ourselves on being experts on everything we sell. With Chrome, our experts can spend more time with our customers and show them the personalized customer support that helps them choose exactly the right camping gear for a first family camping trip or the mountain bike that’s exactly the right height and weight. We’re such big believers in Chrome, we now turn to it as the first option for any new challenge.