The key for small and medium-sized retailers to stay competitive despite the big online retail competition lies in going online, too. With a new postgraduate program, the Akademie Handel (English: Retail Academy) in Munich trains retail employees to face the challenges of ecommerce. Peter Stolpe, Director of Retail Qualifications at the Akademie Handel, has designed the degree program and talks about the goals and contents of these studies in this interview.
Mr. Stolpe, in November of 2014, the new postgraduate program “Online Manager Handel“(English: Online Retail Manager) starts at the Akademie Handel. What specific topics are participants studying in this program?
When we designed the Online Retail Manager degree program, it was important to address current retail needs by creating a custom fit. At the same time, we also wanted to offer retailers intense and fast support alongside their day-to-day business with this three-month postgraduate program. More than ever, retail currently needs employees who are able to add in-depth knowledge in the areas of online presence, eCommerce and online marketing to their existing industry-sector-specific retail know-how. That’s why study contents also address the subjects of online marketing tools, social media management and the set-up and management of an online store. Other items are customer orientation online, sales psychology and cyberlaw. Strategies are being developed to notice search engines on the World Wide Web to begin with.
We also see a big advantage in the fact that participants don’t learn contents in a teacher-centered setting, but rather by using a workshop approach. That’s also, why the study course is divided in three 4-day long modules that start in November. Students are able to immediately apply teaching contents in practice at their companies and are allowed to independently work on a practical project between the first modules. In doing so, our instructors are able to address student questions in the subsequent modules and gradually expand their online knowledge.
The degree program is geared specifically towards small and medium-sized retailers. Why do they need to develop skills in online retail today?
Seventy-five percent of Germans today are online and for many, the Internet is no longer just a source of information, but also a place where they do their shopping. Nowadays, retail customers take it for granted that they are not just able to buy at a brick-and-mortar store and enjoy service options in the store such as consulting or returns. A good percentage also get informed ahead of time via web pages, comparison websites and comparison shopping engines or social media channels. Ordering, paying and delivery are conveniently done from home via the online store. Initially, this means a lot of work and investment for small and medium-sized businesses, because the web page and the content management system behind it need to be dynamic.
Nevertheless, a professional online strategy also offers enormous opportunities. Those retailers, who at least contemplate marketing concepts and communications with customers via social media platforms for instance stay in touch with their customers and show a keen sense for customer preferences. It is not a bold statement, when Rocket Internet founder Oliver Samwer predicts: “Eighty percent of retailers that stay clear of the Internet ultimately won’t be around in the long run.“
Which associates is the degree program geared towards and what prerequisites should they bring along?
The study course is aimed at all retail employees who want to implement online retail operations, need to make decisions and want to be well informed in this particular area. This can be a passionate rookie, a sales or marketing associate who wants to specialize, but also a manager, who wants to become an expert in online retail. We want to teach students skills to be able to make internal decisions or be able to advise decision makers on the one hand and to act as an interface toward external partners such as advertising and web agencies on the other.
Those who complete the program can for instance assume positions like ecommerce manager, online marketing manager or online project manager in their company. Ideally, students should already have a basic knowledge of marketing, strategic management and computer skills.
The internet and also ecommerce are always progressive and are influenced by many trends. How do you keep teaching contents up-to-date?
The degree program and teaching contents are deliberately not aimed at the mere acquisition of a job title, but at teaching students practical management skills. Our three experienced digital economy instructors Stefan Bauer, Theo Grassl and Daniel Gremm form a team that deliberately originates from practical experience and not a university. The instructors have worked for more than 15 years in the online sector, sometimes also internationally. Among other things, Gremm for instance helped to design online marketing for market leaders freenet.de and United Internet (GMX, web.de, 1&1).
Thanks to their own projects and experiences, the instructors are able to incorporate their real knowledge about online retail. In doing so, students can already advance their company in the online field during or rather immediately after their studies.
Interview: Daniel Stöter, EuroCIS.com