Students on the MSc in Internet Retailing (a commercially-focused qualification, academically assessed and accredited) were treated to insights on the commercial view of eCommerce within multichannel at a private conference on 18 May, 2011.
Held under the Chatham House Rule, students from the first two intakes on the MSc head from the Director of Debenhams.com, Simon Forster (who's on the cover of May 2011's Internet Retailing Magazine), Tony Preedy, Marketing Director at Lakeland (and member of the Leadership Council), Hash Ladha, Group Multichannel Director at Aurora, and Wendy Mansell, HR Director at Amazon UK.
The theme of the afternoon was to hear from commercial leaders how eCommerce will develop when we 'drop the e' and it becomes 'just commerce'. With the growth of "Multichannel Directors" on boards (rather than, say, eCommerce Directors) we're seeing a trend towards commercialism being of greater importance than channel expertise, and we wanted to hear from people already in such roles on their views and the commercial concerns at board level.
Our students, from companies such as House of Fraser, QVC, Monsoon Accessorize, Harvey Nicholls, Lloyds Pharmacy, Ambassador Theatres, Asda, Walmart, heard of the importance of commercial skills, service at the heart of the business, the use of a 'brand filter' to prioritise projects and creating an appropriate culture in which all are responsible for sales.
We also learned of the importance of traditional retail skills and of infusing these with a 'digital' and sales dimension even as we learn. Vitally, we heard over an again the need for an ability to act in uncertain times and under conditions of ongoing change. We're used to this in eCommerce, but this is increasingly the state multichannel retail too.
We are grateful for the insights and candour of the speakers - while we can't quote at present there are a number of features already in progress, sparked by the ideas that afternoon!
In the evening we held a 'skills' session, considering the industry issues of identifying the skills we need in our businesses and how to identify and recruit people with those skills. Wendy opened discussions with a view from Amazon - it was a privilege to learn of their recruitment approaches, values and requirements - and we understood a little more clearly how people underpin Amazon's continuing success. Tara Stoop from Odgers next gave us a view from a headhunter, frequently seeking transformational individuals in high profile, demanding roles. Having known Tara for a couple of years her comments were frank, clear and commercial: an eye-opening insight! Jonathan Hall of CranberryPanda then spoke about the mid-senior market and illustrated the importance of whole-career management and identifying people at an early stage with the capacity to develop their skills. Finally, David Edmundson-Bird, Director of the MSc in Internet Retailing at Manchester Metropolitan University, gave a view from the perspective of "building capacity" and skills at an early stage - from foundation degrees offered by the likes of Tesco, to a radical take on apprenticeships, to a stunning upcoming change in the way we understand education for junior colleagues and new hires - more on this in a couple of months, but meanwhile we're sworn to stunned and thought-provoking secrecy...
The sessions were a great success and part of our commitment to rounding the experience, stimulation and critical commercial skills of students on our MSc. The qualification is commercially driven and the results are seen within the students' businesses. The academic assessment and accreditation ensures that the qualification is rigorous, recognised and portable. The combination ensures that we deliver not only skills and value today, but the ability to maintain and develop skills for tomorrow and the coming years. In short, a professional, commercial, Masters-level qualification.
Further coverage of the MSc activities to follow, but in the meantime applications for September 2011 intake are now open. Take ownership of your career, your skills and enhance your commercial effectiveness. Numbers in each intake are strictly limited maximum learning and exposure. Information at http://econsultancy.com/uk/training/qualifications/retailing. Open evenings on 26 May (Manchester) and 14 June (London) can be booked online . You will have a chance to chat with us, the academic staff from MMU and the Econsultancy trainers, as well as speaking with current students from the first and second intakes.