Interview • 27.05.2020

Job maker 4.0: e-commerce

Retail training and continuing education programs are booming

Blonde woman
Source: Copyright Die Hoffotografen GmbH Berlin / www.hoffotografen.de

Digitization in retail and e-commerce growth present fresh challenges for retail employees and the retail world. That’s why interest in the new "E-Commerce Merchant" dual vocational training course offered by Germany’s HDE Retail Association remains high. 

The 2019/2020 school year marked an astonishing 1,600 new training contracts. The growing interest underscores the increased demand on the part of companies.

Students enrolled in the E-Commerce Merchant vocational education program embark on a systematic approach to qualify for a career in e-commerce. The new Specialist for E-Commerce degree program now continues this success story. This exist since December 2019. We spoke to Katharina Weinert, Head of Education Policy and Vocational Training at HDE.

Ms. Weinert, e-commerce has always been an industry that is constantly evolving. Many developments and trends often happen at a rapid pace. Is the training program continually adapted and adjusted to reflect these changes?

Katharina Weinert: I should first point out that the general outline of the education program is the same throughout. We always make sure we write the program educational objectives in an adaptable format. When you take a job-specific skill such as "creating customer touch points or channels of communication", we don’t dictate "how" this should be taught. Instead, the student is tasked with choosing and using customer communication channels and adapting the choice to changing consumer behavior. Another example of this is voice-activated virtual assistants.

The curriculum is worded to facilitate and reflect these modifications. This flexibility is required as we don’t want to limit the scope of companies. We don’t aim to define the channels students should use for communication or pin down whether he or she should serve the customer at the store or use social media as a strategy. The main objective is that the students become familiar with the many ways retailers can communicate with their customers.

Teachers must also be able to adapt to changing instruction environments and be open to new methods and strategies. They mustn’t cling to textbooks, since some of them become obsolete and outdated by the end of the school year.

The same applies to companies. Somebody once asked me what they should do if an apprentice has completed the program and introduces a distribution channel the store has never even heard of before. I explained that this is actually the student’s job. He or she should introduce new ideas to your company, explain them and outline the potential, thus bringing innovation to your organization.

What are key elements of the practical training at the company?

Some companies go beyond the curriculum and introduce students to retail programming or let them venture into logistics or learn about key warehouse processes. Yet other companies send students to brick-and-mortar businesses. And some partner up with other companies and offer so-called "joint training courses". For example, when an online retailer outsources marketing to an agency, the retailer can still train the student in this area thanks to a partnership with said agency. In other words, companies can team up with partners to meet the goals set forth in the curriculum.

How are examinations conducted?

Students are first asked to work on a typical e-commerce project in their company. They can choose a topic and create a page for the online store for example. They must then write and submit a final report that outlines their work. This is followed by an oral exam.

Icon of Facebook and Instagram against a green striped background...
The social media channels are also not ignored in the training.
Source: PantherMedia / Dmyrto_Z

Let's take a look into the future. The first students will complete their education next year. What are the continuing education opportunities they might embark on afterwards?

Since December 2019, the German Bundesgesetzblatt (Federal Law Gazette - BGBl), has approved the official and nationwide uniform Specialist for E-Commerce education program. This continuing education is aimed at E-Commerce Merchants, Retail Specialists or Banking Specialists. To embark on this program, you must have completed a commercial apprenticeship program or - and this is why this educational option is so interesting for employees – you have extensive experience in e-commerce and have taken a learning by doing approach as it were. You may also apply for this path if you have dropped out of college but have already amassed 90 CTS points (academic credits) towards a business degree. So-called Abiturientenprogramme (dual vocational training programs after graduating German high school/secondary school) like the ones seen in other retail sectors, are also starting to emerge pertaining to e-commerce.

What makes these “Abiturientenprogramme” so unique?

“Abiturientenprogramme” have a retail focus as the industry exhibits an increased need for management personnel, including category managers, marketing sales managers, e-commerce key account managers or retail logistics and sales experts. The participants undergo an accelerated and intense program to learn the responsibilities of a manager. Here is one example: The dual-track Retail Merchant program is accelerated and takes only one and a half years to degree completion. Subsequently, students continue their education to become a Retail Specialist, which takes another one and a half years. Now let’s take the example of a young man. If he completes the training to become an apprenticeship trainer, he has actually completed three degrees in three years’ time as he is then also a retail manager. Here is the interesting aspect for college dropouts or high school graduates (German: Abiturient, a German student who is leaving secondary school and going to university after taking the final examination) who look for the fastest way to a bachelor’s degree: the Retail Specialist or Specialist for E-Commerce programs are both deemed German Qualifications Framework level 6 (DQR) and are therefore equivalent to a bachelor’s degree. Students can reach this level in three years and with plenty of on-the-job training and practical experience. Some feel this concept is more conducive to their personal learning style versus merely acquiring theoretical knowledge in college studies, making this a very popular choice. That is why these so-called “Abiturientenprogramme” now also become more prevalent in e-commerce.

Interview: Melanie Günther

related articles:

popular articles:

Thumbnail-Photo: Pandemic fuels wine sales at grocery & convenience stores...
18.05.2020   #coronavirus #food retail

Pandemic fuels wine sales at grocery & convenience stores

Latest shopping data shared by Catalina and Koupon

Having closely tracked the impact of COVID-19 on buying behavior in grocery and drug stores since mid-February, shopper intelligence leader Catalina has compared sales data with its partner Koupon, the leading promotion solution provider for small ...

Thumbnail-Photo: Merchants can build their own businesses by choosing the right daily...
10.08.2020   #e-commerce #online platform

Merchants can build their own businesses by choosing the right daily deal platforms

Bargaining and the three-way transaction that defines the daily deal market

Researchers from the University of Maryland and Harvard University analyzed the bargaining process between the daily deal platforms Groupon as well as LivingSocial and merchants to identify the trade-offs made by both parties during the transaction ...

Thumbnail-Photo: 3 steps to personalisation in e-commerce
04.08.2020   #online trading #e-commerce

3 steps to personalisation in e-commerce

How retailers can build trust and foster customer loyalty

The COVID-19 pandemic has left a visible mark on the retail sector, and companies have had to find new ways to reach consumers effectively in a very short time. Many companies that had previously focused on stationary retail have expanded their ...

Thumbnail-Photo: Video marketing in times of Corona
09.07.2020   #digital marketing #online marketing

Video marketing in times of Corona

The potential of video content for retailers

The spread of the coronavirus has had a particularly severe impact on the stationary retail industry. Many companies are now increasingly focusing on their online presence to cushion declining in-store sales and to virtually stay in touch with their ...

Thumbnail-Photo: Coronavirus: most Americans now using face masks...
15.05.2020   #brick and mortar retail #coronavirus

Coronavirus: most Americans now using face masks

New nationwide survey from Fast

A new nationwide survey from Fast shows that the vast majority of Americans – 88 percent – are now using face masks, but 19% want to personally receive a COVID-19 vaccine before they feel safe shopping in stores again, while another 29 ...

Thumbnail-Photo: In-store farming: growing parsley inside the supermarket...
26.06.2020   #sustainability #in-store marketing

In-store farming: growing parsley inside the supermarket

Purchasing locally grown products

One aspect of globalization means that it’s possible for consumers to buy products from anywhere on Earth. That’s also why a head of lettuce may have traveled more miles from the place it was grown to the supermarket than some salad ...

Thumbnail-Photo: Retailers say credit insurance plan could increase liquidity during...
15.07.2020   #retail #coronavirus

Retailers say credit insurance plan could increase liquidity during pandemic downturn

Backstop for trade credit insurance

The National Retail Federation welcomed a report released this week calling for a federal backstop for trade credit insurance, saying the proposal could help provide liquidity badly needed by retailers as they recover from the recession brought on ...

Thumbnail-Photo: US retail spend set to decline 5.1 % this year...
08.05.2020   #retail #marketing research

US retail spend set to decline 5.1 % this year

More than double the fall of 2009’s financial crisis

As the second largest retail market in 2019 (behind China), the US is set to experience the steepest slump of all other countries this year (in terms of value) declining over 200 billion dollars versus 2019. Spend is forecast to fall 5.1 percent ...

Thumbnail-Photo: A return to core competencies: visual merchandising and customer service...
04.05.2020   #brick and mortar retail #services

A return to core competencies: visual merchandising and customer service

Showrooming with samples in brick-and-mortar retail

Brick-and-mortar stores are facing tremendous pressure: competition, pricing pressure, shifting consumer habits. Is setting up your own online store the answer? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. ...

Thumbnail-Photo: Smart clothing to drive fitness wearable revenue...
10.06.2020   #trend research #fashion

Smart clothing to drive fitness wearable revenue

New report forcasts a rise of 11 billion Dollar by 2025

A new report from Juniper Research forecasts that annual revenue of integrated fitness clothing will rise from approximately $1 billion in 2020 to $11 billion in 2025. This rapid growth, boosted by higher pricing, will see smart clothing become the ...

Supplier

POS TUNING Udo Voßhenrich GmbH & Co KG
POS TUNING Udo Voßhenrich GmbH & Co KG
Am Zubringer 8
32107 Bad Salzuflen